Heating and Diesel Oil Theft

Police always notice an increase in the theft of heating and diesel oil whenever the price of crude oil rises. This makes oil a more attractive proposition for thieves, who target fuel tanks at farms, transport depots and homes. Thieves may be using the oil for their own central heating or selling it on at a large profit.

Your tank can contain many thousands of pounds worth of oil, so it makes good sense to take a few precautions to protect it.   Here are some tips to make life more difficult for thieves:

Siting your oil tank

The position of your tank can determine how easy a target it is.  If the tank is close to the house and easily viewed from windows the risk of being seen may be considered too high.  If the tank is close to a road, path, drive or alleyway then it will be a far easier target. Hiding your tank behind the garage, shed or some other type of outbuilding gives thieves the advantage.

For fire safety reasons your tank must be 1.8m away from the house and any flue outlets. It should, however, still be within a reasonable distance of the road to enable your oil supply company to refill it for you.

Control switches

When your tank is not in use, the control switch that controls the flow of oil should be turned off, and the electricity supply isolated.


Thieves will usually come equipped with a range of tools so it’s worth spending a little more on good quality locks. Close shackle padlocks are the best.  They are more difficult to open, even with bolt croppers as very little of the metal hoop (shackle) is exposed.


Remote electronic oil level gauges, available from tank suppliers will set off an audible alarm if the oil level in the tank suddenly drops.


Security lights can make your property a much harder target.  It’s not always necessary to floodlight the area with high power beams.  More subtle, cheaper levels of lighting may be all that is needed. Low energy ‘dusk ‘til dawn’ lights positioned close to the tank should provide sufficient light to illuminate any suspicious activity.  If you opt for high powered lights ensure they don’t cause a nuisance to neighbours or road users.

Defensive planting

A prickly hedge planted at a minimum distance of 60cm from your tank can be an effective way to deter intruders and also provide a decorative barrier. The smallest trace of blood or shred of ripped clothing could help the police to identify an offender.


Wood and metal fences, walls, trellises and metal cages can also protect your tank but remember that an oil tanker driver will need access to refill it.  Ensure that any barriers are close to the tank (minimum distance of 60cm) and as high as possible. A trellis could also be decorated with defensive planting as already mentioned.  

Closed circuit television (CCTV)

CCTV could help protect your oil tank but there is a lot of equipment on the market of varying quality and price.  It’s worth doing some careful research, and seeking advice from a reputable company to ensure that CCTV is a viable option, and that the kit you install will record images of sufficient quality. 

Further Advice

OFTEC (Oil Firing Technical Association for the petroleum industry) offers advice and guidance for those who use and store oil at their premises. There are certain rules and regulations that may apply to you.  Go to www.oftec.org or call  0845 6585 080 and OFTEC will help clarify these for you.

They also produce a useful, straightforward guide: the OFTEC Home Guide to Domestic Oil Storage.

For this information as a PDF leaflet - see below.