Prevention of environmental pollution from agricultural activity: guidance

Code of good practice, giving practical advice to farmers and others on minimising pollution.

Section 11: agricultural fuel oil


**1. Comply with the statutory requirements of the Control of Pollution (Silage, Slurry and Agricultural Fuel Oil) (Scotland) Regulations 2003 if your farm storage of agricultural fuel oil exceeds 1250 litres.

  • ensure that any new fuel oil storage above 1250 litres capacity is surrounded by a bund capable of containing 110% of the capacity of the tank

  • make sure that the bund and the base of the storage area is designed and constructed to be impermeable and remain so for 20 years

  • keep every part of the tank within the bund

  • ensure any outlet tap or valve can only discharge into the bund in the event of a loss or leakage, and also keep this outlet shut and locked when not in use

**2. Notify SEPA at least 28 days before bringing into use any new, substantially enlarged or substantially reconstructed agricultural fuel oil storage area.

3. Consider the location of the storage tank and ensure there is a suitable firebreak between the storage area and adjacent buildings.

4. Ensure that all staff and contractors working on your farm are aware of the pollution dangers from fuel oil spills and how they should be dealt with.

5. Ensure that a Contingency Plan is drawn up to deal with any potential spillage.

6. Ensure that proprietary kits or absorbent materials are readily available to deal with spillages.

7. Contact SEPA immediately in the event of a serious loss or spillage of oil.


**1. Don't site a fuel oil storage area within 10m of any inland or coastal waters.

**2. Don't continue to use a fuel storage tank that poses a significant risk of pollution, as SEPA may serve a Notice requiring you to carry out improvements to bring the installation up to the standards set by the 2003 Regulations.

**3. Don't pour fuel oil into a watercourse, or allow it to enter a watercourse, as this is an offence in terms of environmental legislation.

4. Don't use detergents in attempting to clear up any spillage, unless the area is contained so that material is collected for safe disposal.

5. Don't be afraid to seek professional advice on clean up if there is a spillage or loss.

6. Don't ignore small leaks from fuel tanks.

7. Don't forget, or neglect, to carry out regular maintenance of fuel storage areas, as pollution does not have to occur for SEPA to serve a Notice.

8. Don't overlook the need to empty the bund of accumulated, uncontaminated, rainwater.


11.1 Agricultural fuel oil is used on farms to power a wide range of agricultural machinery. It is poisonous and spillages into watercourses and onto land can have serious implications for plant and animal life. Each year, accidental spillages cause many pollution incidents.

What legislation must be complied with?

11.2 The Control of Pollution (Silage, Slurry and Agricultural Fuel Oil) (Scotland) Regulations 2003 ("the SSAFO Regulations") govern the storage of agricultural fuel oil where the total quantity stored at any time exceeds 1250 litres. In particular, new, substantially enlarged or substantially reconstructed fuel storage areas must conform to the standards set in Schedule 3 of the Regulations, and SEPA must be informed at least 28 days prior to their use.

11.3 Many farms may have more than one storage area and it is important to note that the storage capacity at each counts towards the total on-farm storage.

11.4 Domestic fuel oil which is stored separately and underground storage tanks are not covered by the Regulations.

Specific requirements

11.5 The fuel storage area must be surrounded by a bund. This bund and the base of the storage area must be impermeable and constructed so that, with proper maintenance, they remain so for at least 20 years.

11.6 No part of the storage facility shall be within 10m of inland and coastal waters.

11.7 The floor of the storage area will normally be constructed in reinforced concrete and should drain to an internal sump. This sump will facilitate the removal of the final part of any spillage or rainwater collecting within the bund.

11.8 The minimum bund capacities required are:

  • for a single tank - 110% of the tank capacity

  • for two or more tanks, for drums or barrels or for any combination of these with tanks - 110% of the capacity of the largest container or 25% of the total volume of oil which could be stored in the area, whichever is the greater

11.9 Every part of any container shall be within the bund including all taps, valves, pipes and these must discharge downwards into the bund. Permanently attached flexible pipes must be fitted with automatic cut off taps and valves which must be locked shut when not in use. No outlet should be provided from the bund as this could allow escape of oil and cause a major pollution incident. The installation of new fuel tanks should be discussed with SEPA to ensure their compliance with the Regulations.

11.10 A system for the removal of rainwater and spillages must be provided, for example a small sump for removal by a hand pump. Providing a roof will reduce the volume of waste material collected in the sump where practical.

Design and construction

11.11 The walls of the bund will generally be constructed in reinforced concrete either as blockwork or in-situ concrete.

11.12 In the former situation, the internal surface must be rendered and is likely to require to be finished with a suitable impermeable protective coating.

11.13 All oil tank(s) supports (i.e. block walls) should be contained within the bund. Such supports are normally comprised of concrete blockwork and can be independent of or part of the bund. In the latter situation, they must not be as high as the bund, to avoid the risk of any spillage or leakage escaping over the top of the bund. For similar reasons, other types of tank support systems must not be carried on the wallhead of the bund.

11.14 Steel tanks should be separated from the supports on which they rest by a bitumen felt or equivalent material in order to reduce the potential for corrosion.

11.15 Certain proprietary prefabricated oil storage tanks come self-bunded. These will only satisfy the Regulations if all ancillary equipment such as sight gauges, vents etc are within the bund.

11.16 Storage tanks should be labelled to describe tank capacity and fuel type, and 'No Smoking' signs should be displayed. All storage tanks should meet with the requirements of BS799 and BS5410. A safe means of access to and from the bund should be provided. Facilities should be installed to enable the delivery operator to fill the fuel tank from ground level.


11.17 This must be considered in relation to other buildings as well as to the proximity of drains, watercourses and water supplies. Fire and the possibility of spillage should be considered. There should always be a suitable firebreak between the storage area and adjacent buildings.

11.18 It is preferable not to store fuel oils inside buildings unless the building is designed for that specific purpose.

11.19 Avoid locations where spillage could contaminate other storage materials such as animal feeds. Storage of oil within catchments of public water supply, or in protected zones around underground sources for public supplies, may be prevented or restricted by bylaws.


11.20 This must satisfy the needs of delivery and farm vehicles. Good artificial lighting should be considered for the area to provide safe working conditions and for security reasons in some situations,

11.21 Areas around the store on which vehicles park to load or unload should ideally be of concrete. If possible, the drainage gradients should be inwards to the storage area. Drains must be fitted with a suitable oil trap and some means of sealing the drain in an emergency

Operational management

11.22 Where feasible, the delivery of fuel should be supervised and only when unavoidable should ladders or steps be used. In such cases, it is essential to conform to the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974. Top openings when used should be provided with a suitable system to hold the filler pipe in position. Where the connection to a filler pipe is below the maximum oil level in the tank, a tap or non-return valve must be fitted to prevent spillage when the filler pipe is disconnected.

11.23 Some method to indicate the level of oil in the tank should be provided. Gravity is frequently the method adopted for transferring oil from a farm storage tank and this will necessitate the tank being raised above the level of a vehicle's fuel tank. Good working access and a trigger valve should be provided to prevent the operator overfilling the vehicle's tank.

11.24 In the case of a direct oil feed from a storage tank to fixed equipment, an automatic emergency fuel shut off system should be provided.


11.25 The storage area and bund should be regularly checked for the presence of water and oil to ascertain that there have been no failures of the structure. The bund should be frequently emptied of accumulated rainwater.

11.26 The storage tank(s) and associated pipes and valves should be regularly checked for leakage.

11.27 The tank itself, if of steel, will require regular maintenance of the exterior surface.

Temporary storage in mobile tanks

11.28 The same care and attention should be given to mobile tanks as to those for permanent storage. These should be constructed to the same basic specification and fitted with equivalent safety devices as appropriate to minimise spillage of oil.

11.29 The fuel systems of engines used to drive pumps should be regularly checked to ensure they are in good working order, especially when sited close to a watercourse. Any leakage of fuel would pose a significant risk of pollution.

11.30 Avoid the temporary storage of fuel oil for such equipment in places from which a leak or spill could enter a watercourse. Great care must be taken in transferring fuel oil from cans or drums to the fuel tank of the engine.

Safety precautions

11.31 A supply of dry sawdust, or proprietary oil absorbent, should be provided close to the fuel oil store. This can be used to soak up accidental spillages or to contain a more serious spillage. A Contingency Plan should be prepared to cope with any possible potential spillage and proprietary spill kits should be available to deal with any clean up. Any contaminated spill kits (i.e. which have been used after a spillage) should be disposed of to a suitably licensed site.

11.32 Never use detergents to clean up an oil spill on the farm. This will cause an increased and unacceptable risk of environmental harm.

11.33 Suitable fire extinguishers should be provided close to the storage area.

11.34 All farm personnel working with fuel oil should be made aware of the pollution risk, which can occur should it reach water and be aware of the action to take in an emergency. The SEPA Emergency number is: 0800 80 70 60.

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