Photograph of - is this heating oil running across the basement floor? Notice the abandoned oil line at the furnace? Underground Oil Storage Tank Life Expectancy
What determines the life of a buried oil tank & how long do they last?

  • BURIED OIL TANK LIFE EXPECTANCY - CONTENTS: life expectancy of USTs - underground oil storage tanks, also referred to as buried oil storage tanks How long should an underground oil storage tank last & what are the main factors that affect UST life & leak risk?A
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Buried oil tank life expectancy & life determining factors:

How long do buried oil tanks last: UST oil storage tank life expectancy. This article provides estimates for buried oil tanks and above ground oil storage tanks and we discuss the factors that impact the life expectancy of a buried tank. 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.

This article series discusses the typical life of oil storage tanks such as tanks used to store No. 2 home heating oil. Both above-ground oil storage tank life (AST life) and underground storage tank life (UST life) and the factors that determine the life of those tanks are explained.

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Buried Oil Tank Life Expectancy of Underground Oil Tanks - USTs

Photograph of - is this heating oil running across the basement floor? Notice the abandoned oil line at the furnace?This article discusses the typical life of USTs followed by a discussion of AST life.

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.

[Click to enlarge any image]

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

Buried oil tank schematic Carson Dunlop Associates

In New England for a two year period [1984-5] among customers who had buried heating oil tanks (16% of total customers) surveyors found an average of 1.7 tank leaks per thousand customers.

They also found 2.5 fuel line leaks per 1000 customers.[4] 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.[3]

We do not have similar data for buried gas tanks in residential application.

Also see OIL TANK LEAKS & SMELLS. Sketch of a buried heating oil tank installation is provided courtesy of Carson Dunlop Associates.

Underground Outdoor Oil Storage Tanks (USTs) and Life Expectancy Factors

Photograph of an oil tank filler pipe placed at grade level.


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