Storage, use, and handling of gasoline and diesel fuel

 Storage, Use, and Handling of Gasoline and Diesel Fuel

Improper storage, use, and handling of flammable and combustible liquids such as gasoline and diesel can result in fires or explosions. Accidental spills can also result in ground contamination. Guidelines that outline the proper storage, use and handling of flammable liquids such as gasoline and diesel fuel can be found in National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Standard 30 – Flammable and Combustible Liquids Code.

Gasoline has a flash point at -45 degrees Fahrenheit. The flash point is the lowest temperature at which a flammable liquid gives off enough vapors to form an ignitable mixture with air. A fire or explosion will likely occur if exposed to a source of ignition. Diesel fuels typically have a flash point above 140 degrees Fahrenheit so they are not as easily ignitable but are still considered a fire hazard.

Flammable liquids such as these are normally stored in smaller, portable containers or in larger aboveground and underground tanks.

Flammable and combustible liquids containers

The best method to store small quantities of flammable and combustible liquids such as gasoline or diesel fuel is in approved safety cans. These types of cans have several safety features that are not present in plastic gas cans or other unapproved containers such as glass jars. Safety cans are designed with a sturdier base and have tight-fitting, self-closing lids so they are less likely to tip over and leak. They have a flash arrestor screen which prevents any flashback of fire into the can. The cans also have automatic vents which help relieve any internal pressures that could result in the rupture of the can in the event of a fire.

There are color-coded varieties of safety cans that can be used specifically for gasoline, diesel, and kerosene. For additional safety, the safety can should be labeled as to its contents.

When filling a safety can, the can should be placed on the ground and not in the back of a pickup truck with a plastic bed liner or in a vehicle with a carpeted surface. Static electricity can build-up and a discharge of this build-up can result in a spark that could ignite the vapors and result in a fire or explosion. Before refilling, touch the dispenser nozzle to the container to dissipate any static charge. Keep part of the nozzle in contact with the container inlet during the entire refilling process. Do not refuel equipment while it is hot. No smoking is allowed when refueling.

Flammable liquids should not be stored inside a home, especially the basement. Flammable liquid vapors are heavier than air and will accumulate at ground or floor level. Water heaters, furnaces, clothes dryers, and other types of appliances could easily ignite the vapors which could escape from a storage container. If more than 25 gallons of flammable or combustible liquids are used, then the containers should be stored in a flammable liquids storage cabinet (even if safety cans are used).

Aboveground storage tanks

Aboveground storage tanks for gasoline and diesel fuel shall be located at least 40 feet from any building. Tanks designed and intended for aboveground use shall not be used as underground tanks. Tanks shall rest on firm, level ground or on foundations made of concrete, masonry, piling, or steel. Tanks shall be designed and built in accordance with recognized engineering standards for the material of construction being used. The minimum separation distance from a gasoline storage tank to an LP gas container shall be 20 feet.

Tank supports shall be designed and constructed in accordance with recognized engineering standards. They shall be made of concrete, masonry, or steel protected against corrosion. The tanks shall be supported in such a manner that prevents excessive concentration of loads on the supported portion of the shell. In areas subject to earthquakes, tank supports and connections shall be designed to resist damage as a result of such shocks. Tanks should be protected against damage from a motor vehicle by use of collision barriers.

The outdoor storage area shall be protected against tampering or trespassers. Areas around gasoline tanks should be kept free of weeds, trash, or other unnecessary combustible materials. Storage tanks shall be marked as to their contents and the nature of the fire hazard. “No Smoking” signs shall be posted in the vicinity.

Storage tanks and their accessories shall be inspected and maintained according to manufacturer’s guidelines or applicable standards. Every aboveground tank shall have an emergency relief venting device to relieve excessive internal pressure caused by an exposure fire.

To prevent against accidental spills, single-wall tanks shall be protected by a diking system designed to hold 110 percent of the total tank capacity. An alternative to a diking system would be the use of a double-wall tank.

A diking system can be constructed from earth, steel, concrete, or solid masonry. The system must be liquid-tight. Any diking system containing two or more tanks shall be subdivided. Where provision is made for draining water from diked areas, such drains shall be controlled to prevent liquids from entering natural water courses, public sewers, or public drains. Spacing between adjacent double-wall tanks shall not be closer than 3 feet.

Underground storage tanks

Underground storage tanks shall be a minimum distance of 1 foot from building foundations and 3 feet from property lines. Tanks designed and intended for underground use shall not be used as aboveground tanks.

Underground tanks and their piping shall be protected against corrosion by a cathodic protection system or by use of approved or listed corrosion-resistant materials or systems. The type of system used shall be judged by the corrosion history of the area and the judgment of a qualified engineer.

Tank venting systems shall be provided with sufficient capacity to prevent blowback of vapor or liquid at the fill opening while the tank is being filled. Vent piping shall not be less than 1.25 inches inside diameter and should extend 12 feet above grade level to vent vapors away from sources of ignition. Vent outlets shall be located a minimum of 5 feet from any building opening to prevent flammable vapors from finding a source of ignition inside the building.

Additional safety requirements

A written emergency action plan (EAP) should be developed in order to respond to fires or other emergencies, such as an accidental spill. Employees should be trained on how to carry out their assigned responsibilities in the EAP.


This bulletin has been prepared as an underwriting reference for members of Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance Company and does not signify approval or disapproval by the Company of any product or device. Please do not copy or reproduce any portion of this bulletin without the written permission of Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance Company. The information included in this publication and program was obtained from sources believed to be reliable, however Grinnell Mutual makes no guarantee of results and assumes no liability in connection with its use. It is the user’s responsibility to comply with any applicable regulations or laws. Information obtained from or via Grinnell Mutual should not be used as the basis for legal advice, but should be confirmed with alternative sources.

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