FPS Issues Summer Heating Oil Theft Alert

Mark Askew
Mark Askew

With domestic heating oil thefts reportedly increasing, trade association The Federation of Petroleum Suppliers (FPS), is urging heating oil users to be extra vigilant when it comes to securing their supply of heating oil this Summer.

Whilst heating oil is the only mainstream fuel which has declined in price over recent years, it remains a valuable commodity. The contents of a typical 2,500 litres capacity domestic heating oil tank could be worth as much as £1,300 – and tanks are especially vulnerable when consumers are on holiday.

To reduce the risk of fuel theft, the FPS and its members are advising consumers of the importance of taking practical steps to ensure the security of their heating oil supply this Summer.

  • If your tank has a lid, fit locks, which can be a legal requirement for some tanks. If in doubt, heating oil technicians and fuel distributors will generally be only too happy to provide advice. If your tank cannot currently accept locks, retrofitable locking lids and caps are available;
  • Consumers with the ‘vent and fill’ design of tank – which remains especially common in the Republic of Ireland – should fit a lockable cap designed to secure this type of container. This is supplied as standard with some tanks, but an extra cost option with others. But remember heating oil distributors cannot fill locked tanks… so if you’re not at home when your delivery arrives, make sure your supplier has a key or access code;
  • Monitor heating oil tanks on a regular basis.  Remote electronic heating oil monitors are available which activate an audible alarm if the oil level in the tank suddenly drops or falls below a specified volume. Monitors such as Dunraven Systems’ Apollo Smart can be located in a kitchen utility room to warn of any potential problem and can be installed in minutes – with no specialist tools, wiring or training required;
  • Consumers who belong to a neighbourhood watch scheme should discuss the issue of heating oil theft with their group co-ordinator so that everyone is aware of the importance of being vigilant;
  • When it’s time to replace your heating oil tank, consider its position and try to make it more secure. But remember to leave clear access for delivery personnel at the fill point and ensure any gauge which may be fitted can be viewed easily;
  • Remember to never lock or block the tank vent/ breather. A blocked vent will cause the tank to become over-pressurised and ultimately explode with potentially lethal consequences;
  • Consider fitting CCTV to monitor heating oil tanks – but be sure to check the quality of the feed, especially during the hours of darkness – before purchase. Also, remember to consider how recorded imagery will be stored. Online, cloud based, recording may now represent a more affordable alternative to traditional hard drives;
  • Security lights can have a very positive effect and make any property a much harder target for the thief. It’s not always necessary to floodlight the area with high power beams, as a more subtle level of lighting may be all that is needed. Low energy “dusk till’ dawn lights positioned close to the tank should, in most cases, provide sufficient light to illuminate any suspicious activity. This type of light can be both effective and inexpensive. High powered lights can be used but care should be taken not to cause any nuisance to neighbours or road users.

FPS Chief Executive, Mark Askew warns that consumers in rural areas are especially at risk of becoming a victim of heating oil theft. Mark says, “Consumers in isolated locations, especially with tanks sited near the road should be especially vigilant. Rural areas are quieter and less frequently patrolled by police than their towns and cities, so homeowners need to look out for each other.

“Lookout for suspicious-looking individuals and vehicles, particularly vans, on both yours and your neighbours’ properties. If you’re particularly concerned, consider relocating your tank to an area that is more secure, remembering to leave it accessible for deliveries. Fitting CCTV and/or security lights to monitor your tank can also go some way to deterring potential thieves.”

Consumers who require further advice are advised by the FPS to contact their heating oil distributor, oil tank technician or the FPS Technical Manager, Tony Brown, on +44(0)1565 631 313. Further advice can also be found on the OilSave website.