Top 10 causes of oil spills at homes in Northern Ireland?

Here are 10 of the most common sources of oil loss at domestic properties. Heating oil is extremely common in Northern Ireland with around 68% of the population using it as a primary source to heat their homes. It is good to be aware of the potential issues that you may face: 

  1. Oil Flexi Hose – This is one of the most common sources of oil loss. This small flexible pipe connects your oil supply pipe to the oil burner. This is simply braided metal covering a plastic pipe and is very susceptible to damage. Always ensure they are kept inside a boiler house or structure as they will rust extremely easily. These are relatively cheap and therefore should be changed during your annual service. If you do not change it and an oil spill occurs, you have the potential to not be adequately insured which could leave with a bill for remedial works. 
  2. Oil tank failure – There are a number of reasons an oil tank could fail, generally, but not always, it is related to age or lack of maintenance. Always ensure you keep an eye on your tank in the warm weather or after a large fill as it can expose any weak points leading to a crack. The warranty on a single skin tank is commonly just 1 year or two if you register it with the manufacturer. Bunded tanks are always recommended as they have two skins, meaning if the inner tank fails, the oil is stored in the outer shell instead of being lost to the ground. The warranty on a bunded tank is normally ten years. 
  3. Oil supply pipe – This can often be the most devastating cause of oil loss as it usually cannot be visually identified until it is too late. Common reasons why the oil line fails is due to bare copper being exposed with no PVC coating or duct, corrosion, joins underground or inadequate depth. Bare copper oil lines should be upgraded immediately and older oil lines with PVC should be regularly pressure tested for integrity. 
  4. Oil delivery – Spare a thought for your oil delivery operative. He has to pull hoses from his oil lorry to the tank. In most cases this is not an issue, however, the pathway at many properties is not smooth and the oil tank is at height there is potential for the delivery operative to slip which can spray oil everywhere. 
  5. Fittings at the oil tank or boiler – fittings commonly leak over time or if not fitted correctly. Impact from something falling on them or from footballs can also result in an issue. This leak can sometimes be hard to see but can still cause a big issue over time. If there is concern over the fittings, have your heating engineer inspect and refit if necessary. 
  6. Sight Gauges – We have encountered many sight gauges which have resulted in oil loss. The main reason is when the gauge gets disconnected from the tank and the valve is open which releases oil into the surrounding soil. Our advice here is to completely remove these old gauges and install a wireless one which eliminates the problem. 
  7. Burner components – Burners are made up of hundreds of parts. Unfortunately, some of these can wear over time, which can lead to a loss of oil. The older the burner and the less attention it has got, the more likely that this is to occur. Also take care when bleeding the boiler, if you get this wrong oil can come spraying out onto your brand new patio!
  8. Theft – Heating oil theft is common across Northern Ireland. With rising costs, oil can often be seen as an easy target, especially if a house is not occupied. As you can imagine, thieves’ are in a rush and don’t care if some oil is lost to the ground. This could be a major issue if they use your oil line to fill drums, the remaining oil they don’t take could be lost to the ground.  
  9. Storm & Flood – If your tank is exposed to flood or high wind  it is highly possible that it can be toppled over and the oil could easily be lost. Additionally, look overhead for any trees or large branches these can crush you tank if they fall. The choice of location is important and if your tank is commonly low on oil, ensure to strap it down!
  10. Collision – If your tank is poorly located and there are some dodgy parkers nearby, it is highly possible that the tank could be impacted. We have seen vehicles and tanks battle before and there has been a clear winner every time.. 


There are countless reasons why an oil leak could occur, however, the majority of them are preventable with good planning and sufficient maintenance. You must be aware of the potential impact an oil spill can have on your property or your neighbours. You also have a duty of care to protect the environment. 

If you are unsure of where to start, SSS Alleviate are always happy to help as we are aware of the potential stress that comes with an oil spill.