Old heating oil tank being removed (C) Daniel Friedman US EPA Suggestions for Abandoning Underground or Oil Storage Tanks (UST)

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This document explains (and expands on) the US EPA detailed suggestions on how to properly "abandon" or close an underground petroleum storage tank in place, that is, without having to excavate and remove it. This procedure is permitted if tests show that the tank has not leaked, and it can save a significant amount of the cost of oil tank removal and site repair to fill in the hole left behind. We have made minor edits to the original document for clarity and we include links to additional and more detailed information about oil storage tanks and other environmental concerns.

Here are the U.S. EPA Recommendations for Temporary or Permanent Abandonment of Underground Oil Storage Tanks with additional text and illustrations by InspectAPedia.com.

Proper oil storage tank abandonment requires the use of good engineering practices, including consideration of the future condition of the tank. While the original of this article focused on commercial oil storage tanks, the concerns and steps should be examined by those abandoning residential oil tanks as well.

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How Do You Close Underground Oil Storage Tanks?

Above ground oil tank leak (C) Carson Dunlop AssociatesOil storage tank closure is one way to help protect human health and the environment, particularly groundwater, from the threats posed by many older underground storage tanks.

You can close your UST [underground oil storage tank or other underground storage tanks such as for farm diesel fuel or other liquids]] temporarily or permanently. In either case, [oil or diesel storage] tanks must be closed properly.

Image at left provided courtesy Carson Dunlop Associates.

[Failure to properly close a storage tank risks:

  • leaks and costly environmental cleanup requirements
  • collapses of buried tanks which can be dangerous
  • property resale or financing hurdles]

How do you Close an Oil Storage Tank Temporarily

You may temporarily close your UST for up to 12 months by following these requirements for temporary closure:
  • Continue to monitor the tank for leaks by maintaining the UST's leak detection. (If your UST is empty, you do not need to maintain leak detection.) Also, continue to monitor and maintain any corrosion protection systems. If a release is discovered, quickly stop the release, notify your regulatory authority, and take appropriate action to clean up the site.
  • If the UST remains temporarily closed for more than 3 months, leave vent lines open, but cap and secure all other lines, pumps, manways, and ancillary equipment.
  • [DF: if the underground oil storage tank is to remain unused for more than 3 months contact your heating oil supplier to obtain the proper oil additives to preserve the usability of the stored heating oil. See HEATING OIL SHELF LIFE]

After 12 months of temporary closure of an oil storage tank, you have three options:

Photograph of  an oil tank floating up out of the ground after area flooding[DF: our photo (left) shows an improperly "abandoned" oil storage tank that was buried next to a stream in Rhinebeck, NY. During local flooding the tank floated up and exposed itself. Don't do this.

EPA's choices are:]

  1. You must permanently close your UST if it doesn't meet the applicable requirements for new or upgraded USTs (except for spill and overfill).
  2. You can ask your regulatory authority for an extension beyond 12 months, if you provide an assessment that determines whether contamination is present at your site.
  3. Your UST can remain temporarily closed without needing an extension granted by the regulatory authority if the UST meets the applicable requirements for new or upgraded USTs (except for spill and overfill) and the requirements noted above for temporary closure.
  • [DF: if the underground oil storage tank is to remain closed longer than 18-24 months we recommend that you have the tank pumped out - see HEATING OIL SHELF LIFE. You will also need to check the tank condition and remove any water in the tank before it is returned to service. Be warned that a buried oil tank that has been pumped out may "float up" out of the ground (see FLOATING UP OIL STORAGE or SEPTIC TANKS) but leaving oil stored in a tank for too long may result in un-usable heating oil or diesel fuel when you restore the tank to service. ]

How do I Close an Oil Storage Tank Permanently

If you decide to close your UST permanently, follow these requirements for permanent closure:
  • Notify the regulatory authority [for your state or province] at least 30 days before you close your UST.
  • Determine if contamination from your UST is present in the surrounding environment. If there is contamination, you may have to take corrective action. For at least 3 years, keep a record of the actions you take to determine if contamination is present at the site (or you can mail this record to your regulatory authority).
  • Either remove the UST from the ground or leave it in the ground. In both cases, the tank must be emptied and cleaned by removing all liquids, dangerous vapor levels, and accumulated sludge. These potentially very hazardous actions need to be carried out carefully by trained professionals who follow standard safety practices. If you leave the UST in the ground, have it filled with a harmless, chemically inactive solid, like sand.

Safe Closure Is A Must

People who do not follow standard safety practices are killed or injured every year while closing or removing tanks. For a safe closure, you need qualified professionals who will use standard safety practices.

[DF: in addition to EPA's serious safety warning just above we add this property resale and contamination warning: we also have encountered "do it yourself" oil tank removal cases which prevented the owner from selling their home due to either an actual oil leak contamination of soils or the inability to document a proper oil tank removal.]

For more information on standard safety practices, UST owners and closure contractors should refer to "Closure of Underground Petroleum Storage Tanks," API Recommended Practice 1604 (1996), which is available from the American Petroleum Institute, 1220 L Street, NW, Washington, DC 20005, or call (202) 682-8000 for assistance. You can also visit API's Web site.

The video and companion booklet called "Tank Closure Without Tears: An Inspector's Safety Guide" are available from the New England Interstate Environmental Training Center at (978) 323-7929. You can also visit NEIWPCC's Web site.

Regulations addressing reporting of oil tank leaks and oil tank abandonment of oil tanks written various state and federal authorities are discussed in more detail at OIL TANK REGULATIONS - "Buried Tank and Above Ground Oil Tank Leak Reporting & Tank Abandonment Regulations"

Be sure to review the details on oil tank abandonment procedures at

Be SURE that the tank filler and vent are totally removed lest you get an un-wanted oil delivery. Don't laugh, it happens.

Also see .


Continue reading at ABANDONING OIL TANKS or select a topic from the More Reading links shown below.

If your oil tank is leaking see OIL TANK LEAK ADVICE

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ABANDONING OIL TANKS, EPA Details at InspectApedia.com - online encyclopedia of building & environmental inspection, testing, diagnosis, repair, & problem prevention advice.

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