A guide to storing petrol

3 May 2024 22 view(s) 10 min read
A guide to storing petrol

If you need to store petrol, you must know how to do so safely. Whether you need to store it for your business, farm, car, van or boat, or even for garden equipment such as a lawnmower, petrol needs to be stored safely.

In our guide, we'll provide you with all the information you need to know about storing petrol safely. We outline what to do if fuel catches fire, the law surrounding storing petrol at work and at home plus our top tips to follow these laws and help you store petrol safely.

Why it’s important to store petrol safely

What to do if fuel catches fire

What is the law around storing petrol at home?

How to store petrol and diesel

Top tips for storing petrol safely

Where can I buy containers to safely store fuel? 

Why it’s important to store petrol safely

It is important to remember that petrol is a dangerous substance.

Petrol is a flammable liquid and the vapour it gives off can easily be set on fire. Petrol can also be corrosive if not stored in purpose-made jerry cans, or tanks designed for fuel. If not stored correctly, there is the possibility of fuel spills and leaks from a corroded container.

Improperly stored petrol puts you at risk of both fire and explosion, making it vital to handle and store it with care. If you are self-employed and need to keep a quantity of petrol at a residential property, it is important to stay compliant with the Petroleum (Consolidation) Regulations 2014

If you are not storing petrol underground or at a refinery, you need to ensure that it is placed in an area with a reduced risk of damage to containers - away from walkways and forklift routes. This means that using a garage, shed or outbuilding to store petrol in compliant containers might be a good option. Make sure that children cannot get access to this fuel storage area. Also, petrol containers must be stored in a way that avoids exposure to direct sunlight.

Also, keep in mind that storing fuel for any purpose presents additional risks, not just the potential of fire and explosion. For instance, even in low dosages, petrol vapour can cause health issues including sore and irritated eyes, dizziness, poor coordination and unconsciousness. Ingesting petrol can lead to nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea, and prolonged exposure to petrol can result in serious medical issues, including significant reactions on your skin, and within your internal organs. 

What to do if fuel catches fire

There are various categories designed to guide people toward the correct way to extinguish fires so that flames aren’t accidentally spread or built. When petrol ignites, it is categorised as a class B fire. For class B fires, you need extinguishers containing specialist foam, powder or carbon dioxide. If you throw water on a petrol fire, it could spread, or the flames could evaporate the water. Also, the petrol’s density would cause it to float on the surface of the water, and it would still be ignited, due to its access to oxygen.

Specialist foams and powders are formulated to cut off the oxygen that can keep petrol alight. Suitable fire extinguishers can be purchased from us at Kingfisher, including powder fire extinguishers and CO2 fire extinguishers that are suitable for class B petrol fires.

Powder extinguishers smother fires with a coating that forms a barrier between the fire and an oxygen source, extinguishing the fire. Whereas, carbon dioxide fire extinguishers eject C02 at great speed, replacing the oxygen surrounding the fire and stifling the fire. 

However, as part of its advice on the safest way to store petrol, the fire service recommends that if fuel catches fire, you “get out, stay out, and call 999”.

It is worth considering your fire escape route if there were to be a petrol fire at your premises. You can then mindfully place it away from your emergency exit routes. This should form part of your business' fire risk assessment and we would always recommend seeking specialist advice.

What is the law around storing petrol at home?

Is it legal to store petrol at home? This is a commonly asked question among small business owners and sole traders who have garden equipment, vehicles or boats that require fuel top-ups near a domestic property.

The Petroleum (Consolidation) Regulations 2014 updated and in some cases replaced the legal requirements for storing and handling petrol, including at home. This legislation is enforced by Petroleum Enforcement Authorities (PEAs) and there is a limit on the amount of fuel you can legally store outside of business premises.

So, how much petrol can you store at home?

You are permitted to store 30 litres of petrol at home (or some other non-workplaces such as a club). If you need to store more petrol than that, you must inform your local PEA but this is only up to 275 litres. If you are storing more than 275 litres but less than 3500 you need to acquire a certificate and licence from the local PEA, which lasts up to three years.

Regulations also control how petrol is stored at a domestic address. It must be kept in a relevant container – such as a plastic jerry can – or a demountable fuel tank away from heat or ignition sources and away from direct sunlight. The 275 litres can be split between suitable storage options, as long as you don’t exceed the legal limit for keeping petrol at home.

Lastly, regarding the rules about storing fuel at home, it is illegal to keep any quantity of petrol inside a flat or apartment.

The PEA also has legislation regarding dispensing petrol at a residential property, including acquiring a licence to dispense petrol into a vehicle tank with an internal combustion engine. Your local PEA can give more guidance on this.

How to store petrol and diesel

Understanding how to store petrol can enable you to stay safe, and will also ensure that you don’t break the law. Storing petrol at home involves meeting both legal requirements and safety recommendations. For example, you may need to consider the question, ‘where should you store petrol for refuelling tools?’ or ‘can you refuel your boat in a garage?’

The safest way to store petrol and diesel is to use purpose-designed fuel containers, which are usually referred to as jerry cans. Storing petrol in plastic containers is fine, as long as they are manufactured for this purpose.

The law dictates that when storing fuel at home, you can use:

  • Plastic fuel containers up to 10 litres.
  • Metal fuel containers to 20 litres.
  • A demountable fuel tank up to 30 litres.

Plastic fuel containers must be crafted from moulded polyethylene, engineered specifically to hold petrol and diesel safely. The plastic must also be of a specific strength, and the container must have its original, purpose-manufactured lid.

These fuel containers must then be placed away from the living areas, such as your kitchen, home office, under-stairs cupboard or lounge. Instead, use your garage, shed or outbuilding. You can also store petrol and diesel outdoors, in weather-proof fuel tanks and other fuel containers, for domestic use.

You may also want to store petrol or diesel in a locked storage space, as this avoids the risk of children or anyone else gaining access to it and creating a safety hazard.

The important thing is to ensure that the location offers good ventilation and shields your stock of fuel from direct sunlight, and anything that represents a risk of ignition, such as a boiler, or part of your garage where sparks are a potential occurrence. Sunlight is also an important consideration because it can cause the fuel to evaporate.

If you are storing petrol in a garage that is an integral part of your property, with a room above it, then it is important to check the legislation regarding the fire resistance of your garage walls and ceiling. Everything must be “constructed of material not readily flammable”, and ceilings must have “fire-resistant internal linings”.

How long can you store petrol?

You may be wondering, how long can you store petrol? If you choose to buy specialist jerry cans from us, you may also be curious to know how long you can store petrol in a plastic container.

Keep in mind that our high-quality jerry cans for domestic use are manufactured from high-density polyethylene (HDPE), which is ideal for both safety and maintaining the integrity of your fuel. So, how long can you store petrol in a plastic container? In a sealed container, kept in the correct conditions, petrol can be held for up to 12 months. Once it is opened (and exposed to air), the shelf life of petrol drops to six months (in 20°C storage conditions) or three months (at 30°C).

If petrol is in the tank of your equipment, it is best to only hold it there for one month, unless you are topping it up with fresh fuel.

It is important to know what limits there are to storing petrol long term. By finding out, you are protecting the performance of your vehicle, motorboat, equipment or machinery. This is because, over time, evaporation, exposure to oxygen and potential contaminants can alter the composition of the fuel, reducing its ability to do its job properly.

Top tips for storing petrol safely

In this guide we have covered the law on storing petrol and diesel, but there are more steps you can take to store your fuel safely.

  • Storing petrol in lighter, smaller containers instead of larger ones can prevent spillages and splashes when dispensing. Buying a multi-pack of stackable jerry cans means that you are handling lighter containers and only the amount of fuel you need for each fill-up.
  • Remember to buy good-quality jerry cans that feature tight-fitting lids, as escaped fumes are a safety risk. Also, if the fuel container is knocked over, there will be no hazardous leaks to deal with.
  • Tamper-evident lids for fuel containers add an extra layer of safety management and give you greater confidence that your store of fuel has not been inappropriately used or contaminated in some way.
  • Stored petrol needs to be kept in a well-ventilated storage space away from direct sunlight. This can prevent ignition, especially when storing petrol in hot weather, and the deterioration of the fuel. 
  • You may be wondering, can you store petrol in plastic bottles? Not all plastics have the same properties, and many plastic bottles have poorly fitting lids. Purpose-engineered polyurethane is a great, safer plastic used for robust, durable plastic fuel containers. These can ensure safer storage and easier dispensing.
  • Even empty petrol containers need to be handled with care, as even petrol fumes can ignite. Keep the lid on tightly and store empty containers as you would full or partially full ones.
  • If the petrol is for operating gardening equipment or machinery such as a lawnmower, chainsaw or trimmer, make sure that you carefully funnel the fuel into equipment that has cooled after recent use. All equipment or vehicles must be turned off for refuelling so that there is no possibility of the ignition element causing a fire or explosion.
  • Never use petrol as an ignitor fluid for a barbeque or bonfire, for example.
  • When transferring petrol to your equipment or vehicle, ensure this is done outside and in a well-ventilated area away from your fuel stores.
  • Do not overfill even specialist containers of petrol. They often have markings to indicate a fill line, and this helps to protect against accidental spillage, for example.

Where can I buy containers to safely store fuel? 

Finding a supplier of fuel containers suitable for storing petrol can keep your premises and its visitors safe, and can also ensure that you stay within the law on storing fuel at a domestic address.

When you store petrol in plastic containers from our range, you can also easily buy well-designed accessories for jerry cans, such as lid opening tools and funnels with a flexible spout and filter. You can also rely on us for tamper-proof lids and Steel Jerry Can Cap Spanners for tightening and removing fuel container lids.

We supply premium-quality jerry cans made from high-density polyethylene (HDPE). This makes them ideal for purpose, to provide peace of mind about storing this highly flammable substance at a residential property. As a bonus feature, our range consists of jerry cans made from eco-friendly, 100% recyclable materials.

You can choose to buy our stackable jerry cans for fuel, to help you to manage how much space they take up on a smaller premises. These highly portable jerry cans enable you to move fuel around safely and comfortably, in the ideal (legal) amounts.

If you’re unsure about the options for storing petrol safely at your business, contact our customer service team today.

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