Beneficial Management Practices: Environmental Manual for Crop Producers in Alberta - Petroleum Products

Subscribe to our free E-Newsletter, "Agri-News" (formerly RTW This Week)Agri-News
This Week
 Storage | Dispensing fuel | Spills and leaks | Disposal

Any fuel or lubricant can cause problems if it contaminates a water source or the soil. Under the EPEA, all gasoline and diesel fuel spills and leaks of 200 L (44 gal) or more must be reported to Alberta Environment. Spills of a lesser amount must be reported if the spill is causing, has caused or may cause an adverse effect on the environment. A leak or spill of any amount into surface water or groundwater must be reported. Cleanup costs can be applied as a penalty.

At present, the Alberta Fire Code: 1997, governs the storage and handling of petroleum products. This Code is administered by Alberta Municipal Affairs. Although on-farm storage and handling of petroleum products is exempt, the following practices serve as guidelines for Alberta farms.

Liquid petroleum products, such as gasoline, diesel fuel and kerosene, must be stored safely to prevent spills and leaks. These products can move quickly through the soil and into groundwater. A small leak of one drop per second can release about 900 L (200 gal) of gasoline into the groundwater in one year. But it takes only a few litres of gasoline to severely pollute a farmstead's drinking water. Low levels of fuel pollution in water are almost impossible to smell or taste. Water that seems pure may be contaminated and harmful to human health.

Explosions are another potential danger from petroleum products. Vapours from an underground leak can collect in basements, sump pits or other underground structures and could explode.


Storage facility

  • Install tanks in accordance with the Alberta Fire Code. A good option is to hire a registered contractor to do the installation.
  • Locate tanks well away from water sources, buildings, ignition sources and other fuel tanks (see Table 4.1).
  • For on-ground storage tanks, install secondary containment such as dikes or double-walled tanks to contain spills. If there is no secondary containment, locate tanks downslope from buildings, grain storages, water wells and surface water so any spilled or leaked fuel drains away from those.
  • Mount tanks at ground level or supported on concrete or metal that can provide at least a two-hour fire-resistant rating. Use a firm foundation for tanks to prevent uneven settling.
  • Protect aboveground tanks, underground storage tanks and piping against corrosion to prevent leaks.
  • Protect all pumps, lines and tanks from collision damage. Install bollards (barriers constructed of a sturdy material, such as steel piping filled with cement, set up close to fuel tanks to guard against collision damage). Make sure fill-up hoses are long enough so vehicles and farm equipment can be kept at a distance from the tanks.
  • Install anti-siphon valves between the pump and the tank to prevent the tank from draining if the line is broken.
  • Lock all fuel tanks when not in use to reduce the risk of spills due to vandalism and theft.
  • Keep the area around the tank free of vegetation and debris.
  • Keep ignition sources away from fuel tanks, especially from the tank's vents that discharge fuel vapours. Ignition sources include electric motors, yard lights, power lines, air conditioning or heating units, road traffic and garbage burning barrels.
  • Ground pumps and vehicles to avoid buildup of static electricity.
Table 4.1 Separation distance guidelines for petroleum storage
Minimum Distance from Fuel Storage
Water well
Surface water body
Any building
Source of ignition*
Another fuel tank
Propane cylinder
Propane tanks
* This includes sources such as motors and electrical sparks unless electrical sources meet the Code of
Electrical Installations at Oil and Gas Facilities.

Adapted from: Alberta Environmental Farm Plan. 2002. Environmental Farm Plan 2002. Alberta Environmental Farm Plan.

Monitoring the facility
  • Keep fuel lines, hoses, valves and nozzles in good repair.
  • Inspect overhead tanks and the area around the tanks for leaks two times monthly.
  • Monitor the volume of fuel in all tanks to detect leaks and other losses. Meter your use to keep track of how much fuel you are using and subtract this amount from the total amount you received.
Dispensing Fuel
  • Ensure that the dispenser unit is ULC and CSA approved, with automatic shut-off valves.
  • Use a hand pump or an electric pump. If using an electric pump, it must be installed according to the Code of Electrical Installations at Oil and Gas Facilities. Gravity feed is not acceptable for dispensing fuel.
  • Close the valves on tank discharges when they are not in use to prevent leakage through the hose or nozzle.
  • When filling containers such as jerry cans, make sure they are supported in an upright position so they do not fall over.
Spills and Leaks

Emergency plan
Prepare an emergency plan in case of a leak or spill. This written plan should include the location of emergency equipment, emergency telephone numbers, cleanup methods and steps to follow.

If a spill or leak occurs, contact Alberta Environment (1-800-222-6514).

For an aboveground spill or leak:
  • Stop the flow of fuel.
  • Contain and clean up the spilled fuel.
    • For spills on floors, use absorbent materials such as sawdust or rags.
    • For spills on soil, excavate the contaminated soil.
  • Shovel the contaminated soil or absorbent materials into a clean container.
  • Dispose of contaminated cleanup materials and soil in accordance with Alberta Environment guidelines.
For a leak or spill in an underground tank or line, contact Alberta Environment for the procedures to follow.


Used oil is the largest single source of hazardous recyclable material in Alberta. If improperly managed, used oil and its components such as (heavy metals, chlorinated solvents and PCBs) can contaminate air, soil and water.

For proper disposal:
  • Collect all used oil, oil filters and oil containers. They can be returned at no charge to the nearest recycling centre. For locations, contact the Alberta Used Oil Management Association (AUOMA) 1-888-922-2298 or online at
  • Most bulk fuel agents will take solvents, cleaning fluids and glycols (antifreeze).
  • Waste oil companies will pick up waste oils on the farm, if the farm has about 1000 L of product per visit. These companies are in the yellow pages under Oil-Waste.
  • Hazardous waste depots will also accept used materials contaminated with petroleum products.
Back to Chapter 4 - Storage, Handling and Disposal of Agricultural Inputs
Share via
For more information about the content of this document, contact Roger Bryan.
This document is maintained by Jennifer Rutter.
This information published to the web on November 1, 2004.
Last Reviewed/Revised on October 30, 2017.