Environmental guidance for your business in Northern Ireland & Scotland

Bulk chemical storage - tanks and drums

Bulk chemical storage - tanks and drums

If you store chemicals in tanks, mobile bowsers, intermediate bulk containers (IBCs) or drums, you must take precautions to avoid causing pollution.

Store oil and chemicals safely

You must store any hazardous chemical in a suitable container that is:

  • sealed securely to prevent spills
  • resistant to the effects of the substance
  • strong enough to be handled.

You can check the chemical's safety data sheet(SDS) to see if it is hazardous. The SDS contains information about the chemical, including details of how to store, use and dispose of it safely. See the page in this guideline: Chemical labelling and information.

Separate all incompatible chemicals. If you store incompatible chemicals together and there is a leak or spill, it could cause a violent reaction. A chemical's SDS will tell you which chemicals it is incompatible with.

To prevent accidents, you should store flammable chemicals in a fire-proof steel cabinet or drum store. If you store large quantities of flammables, you may need to keep them in a designated room.

If you store any kind of oil on your premises, you may need to comply with Regulations for Oil Storage. Even if the regulations do not apply, you should consider meeting the requirements to help prevent water pollution and avoid prosecution. See our guideline: Storing oil.

Avoid major accidents

The Control of Major Accident Hazards (COMAH) Regulations may affect your business if you:

  • store large quantities of chemicals
  • store fuels, including gas
  • have a large warehouse or distribution facility
  • store explosives.

For more information, see our guideline: Control of major accident hazards (COMAH).

Use bunds and secondary containment systems

Store all chemicals in an area where you can contain spills. See the page in this guideline: Secondary containment systems for bulk chemical stores

Maintain storage tanks, IBCs and underground tanks

You should:

  • ensure that your containers are in good condition and are strong enough to prevent bursts or leaks in normal use
  • inspect storage containers at least once a week - if you find damaged containers, repair or replace them immediately
  • use IBCs instead of drums wherever possible - they are easier and safer to handle and use, and less likely to leak than drums.

PPG 26 Drums and intermediate bulk containers (IBC) (Adobe PDF - 351KB)

Below-ground tanks and pipework are difficult to inspect and leaks may not be immediately obvious. To prevent leaks, you should:

  • fit a leak detection system
  • not install underground tanks below the water table
  • use flexible piping if you run pipes below a source of vibration - vibrations from heavy machinery can damage underground pipes
  • test all pipework for leaks when it is first installed.

Prevent vandalism of chemical stores

You are responsible for all chemicals and oil on your site. You can be prosecuted for a pollution incident that starts on your site even if it was caused by vandals.

If you store chemicals outside you should use lockable storage units and keep chemicals locked away when they are not in use.

Further information

PPG 1 General guide to the prevention of pollution (Adobe PDF – 95.8KB)

GPP 2 Above ground oil storage tanks (Adobe PDF - 276KB)

PPG 26 Drums and intermediate bulk containers (IBC) (Adobe PDF - 351KB)

PPG 27 Installation, decommissioning and removal of underground storage tanks (Adobe PDF – 96KB)

Return to Chemical Storage home page

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