There are around 1.6 million UK households who are not connected to mains gas, and therefore rely on heating oil to heat their homes. Domestic oil tanks, which typically cost up to £1000 to fill up, are based outside the home, making it an easy target for thieves, who will often sell it on, and use it for diesel cars. On average, an oil theft victim will lose £280 of heating oil.
Fuel can be stolen from vehicles and storage tanks using siphoning equipment that can vary from basic tubes to more sophisticated arrangements involving pumps and the cutting of fuel lines. Thieves then use the oil for their own central heating or sell it on at a profit.
Heating and oil theft prevention methods:
1) Location of your tank:
The position of an oil tank is an important consideration. There are practical considerations about refilling as well as the distance and height difference to the boiler.
- The position of the tank can have a significant effect on how hard a target it is in the eyes of the thief.
- If the tank is close to the house, with one or more windows capable of giving a view of it, then the thief may consider the chances of being seen too high.
- If the tank is close to a road, path, drive or alleyway then it will be a far easier target.
- Hiding the tank behind the garage, shed or some other type of outbuilding is fairly commonplace, but it does give the thief the advantage.
- Any prospective thief would need to come prepared with a suitable vehicle, containers and means of accessing the storage tank; so making a difficult approach and installing levels of security around the tank will increase their effort and reduce your risk.
2) Control switches
Control switches that control the flow of oil should be turned off and the electricity supply isolated when the tank is not in use.
A thief will usually come equipped with a range of tools to attack your tank so it's worth spending a little more on good quality locks. Close shackle padlocks are the best as they offer most resistance to the most popular of burglar tools - the bolt cropper. Due to their design, close shackle padlocks have very little of the metal hoop (shackle) exposed and bolt croppers cannot get a good grip.
4) Oil level gauges/monitors/alarms
Remote electronic oil level gauges are now available which will set off an audible alarm if the oil level in the tank suddenly drops or falls below a quarter full. These gauges can be located in the kitchen, or perhaps a utility room to warn of any potential problem.
5) Security lights
- 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 'til 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.
6) Defensive planting
- Defensive planting is nature's way of helping to reduce crime. Thieves will not wish to force their way through or over a prickly hedge. These shrubs can, if planted around your tank, provide an effective and decorative thief proof barrier.
7) Sign up to Oil Theft Alerts:
Many heating oil providers offer free alerts on heating oil thefts in your area.
Fuel theft prevention methods:
Due to the increasing cost of road diesel more and more fuel is being stolen. Here’s how you could prevent it happening to you or your business:
- Consider the use of locking fuel caps.
- Park vehicles in areas that are well lit so they can be observed easily.
- Use secure parking areas or compounds when vehicles are parked overnight, especially vehicles not parked at their operating base.
- Fit anti-siphoning devices.
- Consider using fuel dyes.
- Use defensive parking techniques, wherever possible. Park vehicles against solid objects on the fuel tank side to prevent access.
- Consider installing fuel cap alarms – wireless transmitters can be placed inside the screw cap of the fuel tank. A magnetic switch on the device sets off an alarm if the cap is opened or tampered with. More advanced systems can be linked to security lighting or send a text message to the owners or security provider. An isolation switch allows authorised access to the tank for refuelling.
- Install cages and/or improve security that surrounds fuel storage tanks.
- Consider using ‘bunded’ fuel tanks if your existing storage facility is not of that type.
- Remove portable storage from the site (barrels and drums etc.) or make them secure.
- Agricultural sites should consider portable refuelling systems that can be locked in secure storage areas and not left in fields or stock yards.
You can report a theft to us online, in person or by calling 101. If you believe you’ve been a victim of heating oil theft, the following checks should be carried out to confirm this before you contact the police.
- Confirm normal heating oil usage was in effect.
- Date when fuel tank was last filled.
- Check to ensure there is no damage or leaks which would cause loss of heating oil.