The majority of households in Quebec heat their homes with electricity, but around 12% use heating oil.

Heating oil is usually stored in a tank located inside or outside the building. The oil can be dangerous for the environment, so it’s important to keep an eye out for leaks. Tanks that are poorly maintained or too old account for almost 95% of heating oil spills.

Is your home equipped with a heating oil tank? In this article, our oil tank removal specialists explain the importance of oil tank inspection and maintenance.


Residential oil heating systems: Quebec regulations

According to current Quebec regulations, heating oil tanks must be replaced if over 20 years old, to put safety first and prevent potential leaks. These standards reflect a growing awareness of the environmental hazards associated with aging tanks.

Recent regulations aim to promote greener alternatives. Since December 31, 2021, it is prohibited to install oil-fired heating appliances in new homes in Quebec. These measures help to encourage the use of more sustainable energy sources and minimize environmental risks.

Now, Quebec homeowners must either install safer, modern heating systems or be held accountable for regular maintenance on existing fuel oil tanks and furnaces.


Fuel oil tank lifespan

Fuel oil tank lifespan depends largely on whether it is installed indoors or outdoors. Indoors, a tank can last between 20 and 25 years, while an outdoor tank generally lasts only 10 to 15 years, due to exposure to the elements and variations in temperature.

Please note: Most insurers no longer cover the risk after 10 years.

Signs of fuel oil tank ageing and wear

Recognizing warning signs is important to keep heating systems safe and working well. These signs include:

- The smell of oil

- Moisture on the tank

- Rust on the tank walls

- Damaged base

- Bent or twisted pipes.


Residential oil tank replacement

To find out when to replace your oil tank, look for the manufacturing date on the label or directly on the surface of the tank.

If there is no date, the tank was installed before 1980 and has to be replaced! 



Consequences of residential oil tank leaks

Residential oil leaks caused by poor tank maintenance often happen very slowly, but the environmental and economic consequences can still be devastating.


A leaking tank can contaminate the surrounding soil and even affect nearby wells and bodies of water once the oil seeps far enough into the soil to contaminate the water table. It can then have significant negative effects on the fauna, flora and the human population.


Heating oil spills can also have significant financial repercussions for homeowners, because the cost of soil analyses and decontamination work can be high. For example, it may be necessary to tear down and rebuild the foundation to eliminate all traces of heating oil from a property. Such extensive work will increase the cost of contaminated soil remediation by thousands of dollars.

If you heat your home with oil, check your insurance coverage to make sure it includes pollution.


The main causes of an oil tank leak

There are a variety of factors that can cause a heating oil leak. There are three types of tank failures that commonly lead to oil leaks: manufacturing defects, poor installation and corrosion.

Knowing the common causes can help prevent oil spills.

Manufacturing defects

A manufacturing defect in a heating tank can lead to an oil spill if not detected in time. The most common manufacturing defects are a mistake in the chemical composition of the tank’s sheet metal and problems with the welding joints, both of which are difficult to see with the naked eye. Unfortunately, these problems can cause the tank to deteriorate prematurely.

To try to prevent manufacturing defects, oil tank production is subject to various regulations, including CSA standards.

Poor installation

Installing a heating oil tank requires precision and expertise, which is why it must be done by a professional who is a member of the CMMTQ (Corporation of Master Pipe Mechanics of Quebec).

That being said, even specialists can sometimes make mistakes that lead to a spill. Here are some examples:

• Using incompatible materials
• Incomplete assembly, such as a lack of Teflon tape to ensure a good seal between the tank and the vent or gauge
• An insufficient slope in the tank that prevents water and sediment drainage through the filter. 
• Placing the tank in a location where water, ice and snow can accumulate

Oil tank corrosion

Corrosion, commonly known as rust, can severely damage a tank because it eats through the metal, creating holes. Corrosion can be difficult to detect because it often occurs on the underside of the tank. When a tank is breached at the base, the contents will leak out.

Rust is always a concern, but certain factors increase its likelihood. Humid environments tend to accelerate corrosion. The welding joints between two different kinds of metal are particularly affected by rust.


How to prevent heating oil leaks

The consequences of heating oil leaks can be catastrophic, so owners and professionals must take particular care with oil tanks and take any steps needed to prevent them from happening.

Inspect and maintain your oil tank every year

All heating oil tanks should be inspected and maintained every year. It’s important to check the furnace, but also the supply line and the condition of the tank. Note whether your furnace uses excessive amounts of oil, and whether you can smell the oil in your residence. Fuel oil tank maintenance and inspections are the owner’s responsibility, but should be carried out by a professional.

Replace your heating oil tank

Once your heating oil tank has run out of life, or if you notice any of the issues mentioned above, it is time to replace your tank. To do this, the previous tank must be removed carefully first. Nowadays, you can find double-walled steel tanks or tanks equipped with catchment or retention basins, eliminating the risk of contamination by nearly 100%.


Contact Enviro Urgence for residential oil tank removal

The environmental and economic consequences of residential heating oil spills are significant, and preventive measures must be taken to avoid them.

How can you remove a heating oil tank if it’s too old? Contact our team for safe, environmentally friendly disposal. And remember, you can also rely on our emergency spill response services in the event of a heating oil leak.