Heating oil thefts – Invest now to protect your tank

Theft of heating oil has been an issue for rural areas for some time, October onwards is the ‘peak season’ for theft of heating oil as home owners get their supplies for the winter months. Coupled with rises in the cost of fuel; oil has become a much more attractive target for thieves.

We strongly recommend that you take steps now to “target harden” your tank:

Consider the position of the tank can it be viewed easily from the house?  If it is close to a road or pathway it is more at risk.  Think about using prickly, thorny plants to hide the tank from view, traces of blood or ripped clothing may also help to identify the offender.

Be aware of oil levels and check them regularly.  Remote oil level gauge alarms are available and cost between £60 – £85, they will set off an audible alarm if the oil level in the tank suddenly drops or falls below a quarter full.  Some alarms will link to your mobile phone to give you instant updates. For residents who are aged 65yrs or over  the Bobby Scheme now offer Heating Oil Alarms as part of their range.  There is a charge to supply and install the alarm. Call the Bobby Scheme on: 07866 602100


Use good quality padlocks, and lockable fuel caps a thief will not want to spend a long time trying to attack your tank.  Look for closed shackle padlocks, as they will be more difficult to break.  Look for quality marks and attack tested products (see www.soldsecure.com)

If you have a plastic tank, consider screening it with a barrier according to OFTEC advice any screening hedge or fence/ trellis must be spaced 600mm from the tank or 760mm if it is part of a boundary and no fire barrier is erected. See http://www.oftec.co.uk/consumer/faqs-on-oil-storage-tanks

Other options include a metal cage or grill with lockable access point across the top. A specialist product called ‘Tank guard’ surrounds the tank with a metal enclosure, the sheet metal enclosure has lockable access doors, to allow filling and maintenance plus internal anchorage points fixing it to the concrete base.


A tank guard costs less than one tank full of oil and will last many years.

CCTV may help to deter thieves if there is very little natural surveillance, before you spend money on equipment make an assessment of your needs.

If you have outside security lighting, ensure that the system works and that the light sensors have been adjusted correctly to detect movement.

Deter thieves from entering your property by using good perimeter security such as good fencing and strong lockable gates.  Maintain boundaries and perimeter fencing/ hedges.

Be vigilant by noting unusual/ out of place vehicle registration numbers, (oil thieves predominantly have used vans or estate vehicles in the past) and report suspicious activity to the Police.

OFTEC also offer advice and guidance to those using and storing oil. Contact www.oftec.org

For information on general alarm and CCTV suppliers go to http://www.nsi.org.uk (list of approved installers)

Rachel Carr, Crime Reduction Officer