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Ask the Agri Expert: top tips for farm fuel storage

From preventing contamination and mitigating the risk of fuel theft, to staying stocked up and maintaining the quality of fuel, there are a number of considerations when it comes to fuel storage on farms.

And as fuel-related farm activity slows down for autumn, now is the time to make sure your supply stays safe, secure and healthy.

Ciaran Farrelly, general manager at Certas Energy, offers his top tips on tanks, telemetry and everything in between to help you choose the right storage solutions for your farm.

Tanks: Keep health and safety high on the agenda

When investing in a new fuel storage tank, price is often the first consideration – but protecting health and safety and the environment should be key priorities when choosing the right solution. There is no doubt that the burden of responsibility is heavy. You can be held liable for any contamination, pollution, spills or workplace accidents that result from unsafe fuel storage on your farm. This can lead to possible fines and even prosecution

With so much to consider, it can be difficult to know where to turn or how to make the safe choice. Let’s take a closer look.

If you are happy with your tank and are not looking to purchase a new one ahead of winter, it is advisable to take the time now to check your tanks for cracks and leaks. Contact the Environment Agency immediately if you have any concerns.

If you are in interested in investing in a new tank, there are a number of legal obligations to consider:

  • Your fuel must be secured in a storage solution that’s been designed to meet ISO 9000 quality management standards.
  • The tank you choose must be bunded or surrounded by a secondary containment structure.
  • The bund must have a life-expectancy of at least 20 years with maintenance; be impermeable to oil and water (walls and base), with no drain-down pipe; contain every part of the tank, with taps and valves directed down and locked shut when not in use; and contain delivery pipes that are permanently attached to the primary tank. These must be fitted with self-closing taps or valves and locked inside when not in use.
  • All components of your tank must be at least 10 metres away from inland or coastal waters, and this includes yard drains, dry ditches and land drains. This will help ensure in the event of a spillage, waterways will not be polluted, or public health put at risk. If tanks are underground, they must also follow the Defra Groundwater Protection Code.  

To help you make the right choice, our OFTEC registered engineers can offer thorough on-site farm safety surveys, providing you with bespoke advice and recommendations.

Plus, as part of our Safety F1rst initiative, we work with the farming community to provide training on safe storage of fuel, best practice in preventing spills and leaks, and what to do in the event of an incident.

Need to find a tank that fits with your farm business requirements? Click here to learn more.

Let’s talk telemetry

Tank monitoring systems are a smart and convenient solution to help you keep an eye on fuel levels during the quieter months; helping to optimise stock management and mitigate against fuel theft and environmental risk. Fuel theft is a particular concern in autumn; with the darker nights providing cover and farms entering a post-harvest lull, it is prime time for thieves to strike.

Our wirelessly-fitted telemetry system enables real-time remote fuel monitoring across multiple tanks. Automatic alerts are triggered in the event of a sudden drop in levels, which could indicate theft or a leak. This allows you to take swift remedial action, contacting the relevant authorities, such as the police or the Environment Agency, potentially limiting environmental damage and increasing the chances of recouping losses.

This also helps to avoid unexpected downtime from depleted stores, as automatic top-ups can be triggered when levels are low. As an additional safety feature, telemetry systems help to reduce the need for manual checks on fuel levels, limiting the need for you or your farm workers to work at a height and reducing the chance of workplace accidents.

If you want to further bolster your tank security, consider installing bright, movement-triggered flood lights, adequate security signage and visible CCTV robust fencing and locked cages. Additional features, such as a secure lock or key fob, can also help act as deterrents.

Keen to see telemetry in action? Find out how telemetry helped one busy farm get to grips with fuel monitoring.

Heat up ahead of winter

Industrial heating oil – available through Certas Energy under the brand name Therma35 – is a cost-effective, compliant heating solution that can be used for a diverse range of applications. These include drying and industrial heating in agricultural businesses, such as in grain driers and for heating cowsheds, as well as for powering various heat-related treatments for food and drink related manufacturing, such as at dairies and animal feed mills. Industrial heating oil is also a winter-grade solution with a long shelf-life. It contains zero bio content, so you can stock up in advance for any cold snap hits, without worrying about spoilage due to microbial content, interruption or waxing.

Valuable heating oil can, however, be a target for thieves, particularly as it is often stored in remote locations. Simple measures such tank monitoring systems, oil cages and disguising tanks can help protect oil on your farm. Heating oil tanks should be given the same care and consideration as commercial fuel tanks. It’s important to check your tank regularly, especially in advance of any heating oil deliveries. If your tank is over 10 years old, it’s even more important to check for any signs of damage, or for risks of leaks and spillages.

Want tips on keeping your heating oil tanks – for your home and farm – secure? Check out our handy guide on to avoiding heating oil theft.

Deter thieves with Diesel Defender

Though the agricultural industry was largely unimpacted by red diesel duty equalisation, accepted use of red diesel in agriculture has become more restricted and there are exceptions. Some farmers, therefore, now need supplies of both non-rebated fuel and rebated fuel. As white diesel or non-rebated diesel alternatives stores do not have the tell-tale red dye, these types of fuel are particularly vulnerable to theft.

Diesel Defender anti-theft marker dye is a valuable tool for warding off would-be thieves. The liquid blue dye colours white diesel to produce a green fuel, making it distinguishable from white diesel for personal use. It acts as a powerful deterrent to thieves, improving traceability, impacting resale value, and exposing non-commercial use.

Tank stickers can be supplied on request to help advertise that the fuel has been dyed to prevent theft.

Need a recap on red diesel reform rules? Check out our blog to learn the top six things farmers need to know about the legislative changes.

Keep stored fuel in tip top shape

Increased levels of renewable content in red diesel under the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO) has led to reports of farmers experiencing filter blockages and contamination issues with their fuel storage tanks.

As FAME is made from biological content, it has reduced storage stability, degrading more quickly than conventional fuels, leading to gum formation in storage and filter blockages. FAME can be particularly troublesome for fuel stored for extended periods, such as during low activity farming months. Additives can help stabilise fuel stored in tanks during the colder months and avoid the effects of increased FAME content.

Take Gas Oil Conditioner, for example. It contains stability additives and a biocide at a ‘protect’ level to keep fuel fresh, increasing fuel shelf life and inhibiting fuel tank sludge formation. Fuel Store Plus is also an option. Stocks that have been stored without treatment for long periods will age – forming solids, darkening in colour and ultimately losing oxidation. This degradation is further accelerated where fuel contains higher levels of FAME. Fuel Store Plus acts to delay the symptoms of fuel ageing – which is irreversible – and has anticorrosion and biocidal properties.

Think tanks. Think Certas Energy.

Certas Energy is committed to providing full fuel management solutions to support safer, smarter fuel storage on farms across the UK. All tanks supplied by Certas Energy meet UK regulations, giving you full peace of mind that your fuel is stored safely, securely and in compliance with the latest guidelines. Whatever your requirements, our full range of tanks and tank-related solutions and services are bound to meet your storage and dispensing needs.

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