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Some fuel regs


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1 This circular aims to explain the law on the type and capacity of portable petrol containers that can be used to store petrol, filled at petrol stations and carried on vehicles.

2 There are three pieces of relevant legislation:

- the Petroleum (Consolidation) Act 1928 (PCA);

- the Petroleum-Spirit (Motor Vehicles etc.) Regulations 1929; and

- the Petroleum-Spirit (Plastic Containers) Regulations 1982 (which is supported by an ACoP on testing and marking containers).

3 These control how petrol can be kept (and for plastic containers, their design and manufacture for use in work situations). They do not specify the capacity or construction of containers that can legally be filled at petrol filling stations or that can be carried on a vehicle travelling on the road.

The Petroleum (Consolidation) Act 1928

4 PCA requires a licence to keep petrol except for small quantities kept in "securely stopped glass, earthenware or metal containers of a maximum capacity of 570 mls". The total quantity kept in this way must not exceed 15 litres.


5 The Petroleum-Spirit (Motor Vehicles etc.) Regulations 1929 exempt certain quantities of petrol kept in metal containers from licensing requirements. The petrol must only be kept for the purposes of refuelling internal combustion engines and must not be for sale.

6 Up to 275 litres of petrol can be kept in any one storage place without a licence. The allowable quantity is reduced when the petrol is kept in or near buildings, or near public thoroughfares or other flammable substances (see below). In calculating the 275 litre limit, the petrol in the fuel tanks of vehicles in the storage area is included in the total.

7 Metal containers must be constructed so as to be reasonably secure against breakage and to prevent leakage of liquid or vapour. They should be marked with the words "petroleum-spirit" and "highly flammable".

8 The maximum container capacity for keeping petrol is 10 litres unless the following conditions are met:

a) the storage place is more than 6m from a building, highway or public footpath,and;

b) there is spillage retention at the storage place (eg retaining wall, trench), and;

c) the licensing authority is given written notice of the storage place before it is used.

This does not include petrol in the fuel tank of a vehicle.

9 Note that there is no restriction on the number of containers that can be kept as long as the 275 litre maximum limit is not passed.

10 If the storage place is less than 6m from any building, stack of timber or other flammable substance it can only be kept in the fuel tank of a vehicle and up to two 10 litre containers on a motor vehicle, motor boat, aircraft or hovercraft unless notice in writing is given to the licensing authority.

11 Where petrol is kept in a building (or a place attached to a building) used as a dwelling or place where people assemble, there must be a substantial floor or partition separating the petrol storage from the rest of building. The floor or partition must not be readily flammable. Where the partition (not a floor) has an opening it must be fitted with a self closing door made of fire resisting material. In these circumstances a maximum of two 10 litres containers can be kept. Petrol in the fuel tank of a vehicle is not included in this amount.


12 The Petroleum-Spirit (Plastic Containers) Regulations 1982 allow plastic containers to be used as well as metal. They exempt from the need for a licence certain amounts of petrol kept in plastic containers for the purposes of refuelling internal combustion engines and not for sale.

13 For storage in plastic container without a licence the containers must:

a) be constructed of suitable materials;

b) have maximum capacity of five litres;

c) be designed and constructed properly;

d) have appropriate markings or labels;

and the quantities that can be stored are:

i) two containers can be kept on any motor vehicle, motor boat, aircraft or hovercraft;

ii) plus two further containers can be in a safe place in any domestic premises;

iii) plus two more containers can be kept in any other safe place at least 6m from the first.

These quantities are in addition to any petrol kept in metal containers.

14 Where a petrol licence is in force, the conditions in paragraph 13 do not apply, but storage has to be in accordance with any licence conditions.

15 It is an offence to manufacture, import or supply containers for use at work which do not meet the requirement of sub-paragraphs 13 a) to d). Details on the testing and marking of plastic containers are available in HSE's Approved Code of Practice COP 6. It is not necessarily an offence to keep containers not meeting 13 a) - d) as long as a licence is in force.


16 PCA and it's associated regulations do not exercise any control over the carriage of petrol on vehicles for private or work use.

17 The commercial carriage of petrol is covered by two sets of HSE enforced regulations:

- the Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Road Regulations 1996 (CDG); and

- the Carriage of Dangerous Goods (Classification, Packaging and Labelling) and Use of Transportable Pressure Receptacles Regulations 1996 (CDGCPL).

18 These regulations include requirements for design and marking of the packaging or containers used. The packaging must be suitable for the purpose, having regard to the substances they contain and be appropriately marked. PLAs should direct queries to the local HSE office.

19 These regulations are solely concerned with the commercial transport of hazardous substances and do not cover petrol carried on a vehicle for private use.


20 At filling stations, there is no specific legal restriction on the type or number of containers that can be filled (although Petroleum Licensing Authorities often use licensing conditions to limit the containers sizes). The legal limits are on how and where they are subsequently kept.

21 Carriage of petrol is not covered by petroleum legislation. However, petroleum licensing officers should advise filling station operators to ensure that only containers suitable for the purpose are filled.

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