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OIL STORAGE TANKS - home
ABANDONING OIL TANKS
ABOVE GROUND OIL TANK (AST) GUIDE
BURIED OIL TANK (UST) GUIDE
HEATING OIL TYPES & PROPERTIES - home
HOME BUYERS GUIDE TO OIL TANKS
OIL SPILL CLEANUP / PREVENTION
OIL TANK ABANDONING PROCEDURE
OIL TANK INSPECTION & TROUBLESHOOTING
OIL TANK LEAKS & SMELLS
OIL TANK PIPING & PIPING DEFECTS
OIL TANK REGULATIONS
OIL TANK REMOVAL COs
OIL TANK SPILL CLEANUP / PREVENTION
OIL TANK LEAK TEST METHODS
OIL TANK TESTING & REMOVAL COs
OIL TANK WATER CONTAMINATION
Heating oil storage tank life expectancy:
How long do above ground or buried oil tanks last: oil storage tank life expectancy. This article provides estimates of oil storage tank life for buried oil tanks and above ground oil storage tanks.
We list the factors that affect oil tank life for buried oil tanks and different factors that impact the life of above ground oil storage tanks. How long an oil storage tank can be expected to reliably contain its oil and not to leak depends on quite a few variables, all of which we describe here.
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Some things that can shorten the life of an oil tank can be avoided or corrected. The photo shows how a leak develops and appears in an indoor oil storage tank, forming a stalactite of oil and sludge hanging from the bottom of the tank.
Because an oil tank often rusts through from the inside out, the exterior of an oil tank may look fine but in fact it could be paper thin and easily punctured, even by a finger!
The life expectancy of oil tanks is helpful in planning for storage tank testing and storage tank replacement. This is a chapter of our "Heating Oil Underground & Above ground Oil Storage Tank Leaks, Testing, Problems & Solutions, Home Buyer's / Home Owner's Guide" which offers extensive free un-biased oil storage tank inspection and testing advice for property buyers and owners.
While we've found them lasting longer, a common life expectancy of buried oil tanks is 10-15 years. At about 20 years, the risk of leaks from buried steel oil tanks becomes significant. Leaks can occur earlier if a tank was damaged at installation or was not properly piped.
Even if you think the tank is ok, young, and not leaking, buried oil tanks, should be tested for water in the tank bottom. Water should be pumped out since it corrodes the tank and leads to leaks. Oil tank leaks can also be due to damage at time of installation, improper installation, corrosive soils, or piping defects. If the tank is to remain in use, ask your fuel supplier about using an additive or other methods to help remove water.
Life Expectancy of Buried Oil Storage Tanks - Residential
They also found 2.5 fuel line leaks per 1000 customers. This finding that twice as many heating oil system leaks occurred in the fuel piping is consistent with the Maryland study reported below.
A 1986 Maryland study found a 40% leak rate in petroleum product storage tanks (oil, gas, kerosene, waste oil) of which oil piping caused 82% of all leaks, and location (urban vs rural) and soil conditions were important factors in leak occurrence.
We do not have similar data for buried gas tanks in residential application.
Underground Outdoor Oil Storage Tanks (USTs) and Life Expectancy Factors
We suspect that there is a wide variation in indoor above ground and outdoor above ground oil tank life due to the considerable variation in both the quality and thickness of oil tank steel (older tanks seem to have been a heavier gauge steel), as well as other factors in oil storage tank life.
We have seen indoor oil tanks easily in good condition that are 60 years old or older, and we have found failures in newer oil storage tanks that may have been made of thinner or cheaper steel and that did not last as long as the original ones.
Rather than guess at oil tank condition, we suggest that if your home has an older above ground oil storage tank, ten years old or older, you should
Indoor Above Ground Oil Storage Tank Life Expectancy Factors
We discuss the inspection of above ground oil storage tanks in detail at ABOVE GROUND OIL TANK (AST) GUIDE.
Sketch at left of leak points at an indoor oil storage tank is provided courtesy of Carson Dunlop Associates.
Here are trouble signs for ASTs:
Outdoor Above-ground Oil Storage Tank (AST) Life include the following:
Questions & answers or comments about typical oil storage tank life and factors that affect oil tank durability and leak risk
Question: I've seen claims that oil storage tanks last even up to 40 years - who's right?
I refer to one of your article on your website (above on this page), which I am curious and very much want to know more. Are there justification to that?
Or it depends on other parameters such as weather and soil conditions? Some websites mentioned that such tank can last even up to 40 years. - M.A., PUB, Singapore National Water Agency
Our InspectAPedia photo of an abandoned "buried" oil tank shown at left is an example of a buried oil storage tank that had a very long and leakproof life - until it was abandoned, forgotten, and left empty. Worse the tank had been buried alongside a waterway - a stream in Rhinebeck, NY.
This oil tank was subjected to very wet soil conditions over several decades, apparently without leaking oil into the environment. But we can't promise the same performance for all buried tanks. It depends ...
Reply: how long do buried oil tanks last ? ... It depends
Thankyou for the interesting oil tank life question. A competent onsite inspection by an expert usually finds additional clues that help accurately diagnose a problem or factors that might affect the life of a specific oil tank when at a specific site or oil tank, even before any actual tests for evidence of oil tank leakage. That said, here are some things to consider:
If you have reason to need an oil storage tank that is resistant to corrosion damage, take a look at some of the fiberglass and other plastic alternatives as well as (more costly) multi-walled oil storage tanks that are required in some jurisdictions and applications.
What is the Legal Definition of "... up to xxx..." Claims in Advertising?
Watch out: about "up to" claims.
Finally, whenever you see someone claiming "... up to ..." you don't really know what to make of such remarks. "Average life of an oil storage tank" is nothing like "... up to... " life. "Up to" after all, could include one single instance of an oil storage tank that was reported to be 40 or 60 or some other age. And meaningless.
Consulting with an advertising attorney in 2010 we learned that there is a legal definition of "up to" claims - at least in advertising case law. You can claim "up to" for a product if 10 percent of the product meets that standard. So if one oil tank lasted for 40 years somewhere but another nine in the same test set all failed in the first month of service (certainly not really likely), the tank "expert" could still claim that his oil tank installations lasted "up to 40 years".
I appreciate the question and welcome reports of oil tank life from folks in other countries and environments. We are dedicated to making our information as accurate, complete, useful, and unbiased as possible: we very much welcome critique, questions, or content suggestions for our web articles. Working together and exchanging information makes us better informed than any individual can be working alone.
InspectAPedia is an independent publisher of building, environmental, and forensic inspection, diagnosis, and repair information for the public - we have no business nor financial connection with any manufacturer or service provider discussed at our website.
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