Unpredictable fuel oil storage tank failures have resulted in thousands of property damage claims and environmental contamination.  Most failures occur at the bottom of the tank from internal corrosion and occur without warning.  The Technical Standards Safety Authority (TSSA) has implemented changes to its regulations governing the Fuels Safety Program.  New Code requirements under CSA-B139ON-06 came into effect on January 1, 2013.  TSSA will require that all new tanks, both indoors and outdoors, be installed with a double bottom, double wall or secondary containment.

In an effort to address this and prevent and detect tank bottom failures, steel tank manufactures have developed a new design for tanks.   These new tanks have received certification to the ULC-S602 standard for Aboveground Steel Tanks for Fuel Oil and Lubricating Oil.
The new regulations are not grandfathered to include existing fuel oil storage tanks however this change will affect the cost incurred when replacing older tanks found in many of Ontario's homes.  As most of you are aware the acceptance of existing fuel oil storage tanks rests with the insurance industry, the TSSA service technician and the fuel oil distributor.  Any one of these entities can condemn the existing fuel oil tank.   The costs involved to install a new compliant fuel oil storage tank is expected to be considerably higher and can affect your client's bottom line.  Typically fuel oil tank replacement costs were in the $1,200.00/$1,500.00 range; this cost could now easily double.

As all fuel oil burning appliances are required to be inspected by a licensed TSSA technician every 10 years for compliance, contractors and installers are required to ensure that TSSA approved double bottom tanks are installed.

For more information on these new requirements, please refer to the Fuel Oil Code Adoption Document Amendment FS 202-12 Double wall tanks, double bottom tanks and spill containment - on the Fuel Safety section of TSSA's website, www.tssa.org
TSSA is a not-for-profit, self-funded "Delegated Administrative Authority" that administers and enforces public safety laws in various sectors under Ontario's Technical Standards and Safety Act.

Many Ontario homes use fuel oil when propane and natural gas are not viable options for heating in the area. These homes will normally have an oil tank somewhere on the property, and when preparing to sell your home it’s a wise investment to have the tank inspected and to know how old it is.

An important distinction is that oil tanks can be either above ground or underground, and each type of fuel oil tank requires a different set of specifications. The average life expectancy of an underground oil tank, for example, is somewhere between 10-15 years, and at 20 years the risks of leaking increases significantly.

There are no current laws or regulations that state an oil tank must be replaced by a certain age if it’s not leaking, but the Government of Ontario recommends replacing oil tanks that are more than 30 years old. There are however, regulations stating that underground oil tanks must be updated if they’re a certain age.

Above Ground Oil Tanks 

Above ground oil tanks installed in Ontario after 1971 should have an Underwriters’ Laboratories of Canada (ULC) label. Having a ULC certification is required by law, however oil tanks installed before 1971 have been grandfathered in and are approved for use anyway. This label will also contain manufacturer’s information, and if the age of the tank is not identifiable by looking at the label, the manufacturer can be contacted to ask about the age of the tank.

Typical basement oil tank

If the oil tank was installed after 1971 and does not have a ULC certification label, it needs to be replaced with a certified tank. The ULC label or plate is usually on the top half of the tank and should be clearly visible. The ULC can also come and certify the tank so oil distributers can supply the tank with oil. Without certification, oil distributers are prohibited by law from supplying oil. The Technical Standards and Safety Authority, which regulates fuel oil tanks in Canada, does not inspect aboveground tanks and oil distributers must conduct a preliminary inspection of all tanks they deliver to.

You can conduct a mini-inspection of your own to get a good idea of what you’re dealing with before paying for a fuel oil tank inspection. Checking your above ground tank for instability or shakiness, rust, wet spots, dents, drips, spills and cracks will provide a decent indication of its overall health.

If the oil tank was installed in accordance with whatever codes were in place at the time, the TSSA will still consider the tank approved for use despite any subsequent changes to those codes over the years. 

When having an above ground oil tank inspected through an oil tank distributer, there’s not much else you need to do after the inspection takes place. On the other hand, if you arranged for an inspection by a third-party company yourself, a follow-up with the distributer is recommended by the TSSA to ensure everything is on the up and up and that the TSSA and the distributor’s requirements for a functional and safe oil tank are compatible with each other.

Under Ground – Buried Oil Tanks 

All underground oil tanks must be registered with the TSSA. If it’s not registered, those who attempt to have oil supplied to them will likely receive a notice requiring them to have the tank registered within 90 days. Registering a tank with the TSSA is completely free, and can be done by filling out and mailing or faxing the form in.

Based on an amendment to the fuel oil burning equipment code, underground or buried tanks, depending on their age must have been upgraded by a certain date. The last of those dates, for tanks 0-9 years old, passed at the end of last year and it’s safe to assume that if the tank was not upgraded when the amendment was introduced in 2002, it’s due for an upgrade.

TSSA registers underground tanks, and they’re inspected during installation. According to the TSSA, this inspection of the entire oil system costs $150 per hour, and the amount of hours depends on the complexity of the system. 

It’s difficult to determine if an underground oil tank is leaking as the same signs that imply an above ground tank might be leaking are not readily visible. A sudden increase in oil consumption may indicate a leak, as well as oil slick rainbows on nearby puddles or streams. A TSSA-registered fuel oil contractor can be contacted to inspect the tank and safely remove any oil that make have leaked. Ontario residents are also obligated to call the Ministry of the Environment Spills Action centre at 1-800-268-6060 in the event of an oil spill.

There are no set dates for the inspection of a fuel oil tank regarding its age, but oil distributers will carry out an initial inspection before they supply you and are supposed to do one every ten years. If a tank has not been used for two years, it must be removed by a TSSA-registered contractor no matter how old it is.

Selling Your Home 

If you’re selling your home and have an oil tank, before closing the fuel oil supplier should be contacted and it should be ensured that any inspections necessary have been completed. To obtain an inspection, look in your local Yellow Pages to find a suitable, TSSA-recognized company under “Heating”.

When hiring a distributer to check the oil system, the TSSA has a sample checklist you can download and print. The homeowner can then make sure that all of these items are covered in the inspection.

Most buyers’ insurance companies will require that they ask the age, location and inspection history of the tank, and by following the above steps you’ll be able to answer accurately answer any questions.

What Is This Going To Cost? 

When the inspection of a fuel oil tank is conducted by the fuel oil distributer, prices can vary. Some companies will even do it free of charge, or include it in their costs anyway as they must conduct an inspection before they begin.

The removal of an average-sized residential above ground fuel oil tank in a basement generally costs around $450, and the removal of a residential underground fuel oil tank can run, on average, $4,000.  Get more than one estimate!

Site inspections of a fuel oil tank generally cost $349, but if an underground tank needs to be removed this fee is deducted from the total cost.

Handy Phone Numbers And Websites 

1-877-682-8772 – The TSSA general line

More information on removing fuel oil tanks: http://www.ecometalrecycling.ca/Oil-Tank-Removal-Service.aspx

www.opcaonline.org – The Ontario Petroleum Contractors’ Association, where you can find a TSSA-registered contractor for your municipality for removing a fuel oil tank.

1-800-268-6060 – Ministry of the Environment’s emergency toxic spills 24-hour line.

416-734-3402 – the TSSA Records Department for oil tank property history.