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How Much Does it Cost to Decommission an Oil Tank?

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Oregon alone is home to over 27,000 decommissioned heating oil tanks. Decommissioning an oil tank can be quite an expensive process, with some costs running into the millions of dollars.

Oil tank decommission costs often depend on the size of the tank and the level of contamination found in the soil around it. Get a better understanding of the costs expected to decommission a heating oil tank so you’re not surprised later on. 

What Does It Mean to Have an Oil Tank Decommissioned?

There are a few different types of oil tanks and a few different ways to decommission them. But, at the most basic level, decommissioning refers to the process by which oil tanks are sealed or removed when no longer in use.

Oil was a popular form of fuel for homes and commercial industries alike around the 1970s. To use fuel oil, one must store and heat it. So, oil heating tanks weren’t uncommon.

But, as more efficient power like electricity proved more useful than fuel oil, heating oil tanks became obsolete. Therefore, they fell into disuse and disrepair. Without a need for these tanks, many people and businesses no longer want them on their property.

If the heating oil tank is empty, there isn’t often a rush to decommission it. That is, aside from wanting to rid yourself of an eyesore. However, there are a few reasons to seek immediate decommissioning services depending on the state of your heating oil tank.

Why Should I Have My Oil Tank Decommissioned?

No matter what, removing oil tanks that you aren’t using is always a smart decision. With the dangers unused and leaking oil tanks can cause, you should be cautious about waiting too long to take care of them.

Underground Heating Oil Tank Leaks

If your heating oil tank is underground, it may become disruptive to the surrounding environment. These tank leaks often lead to soil and groundwater contamination.

Not only will this affect the surrounding ecosystem, but it can have toxic implications for your home and community. Around one-third of Americans rely on groundwater for drinking water. Though public water systems process that water first, the risk of toxic exposure persists.

A great start to help avoid this is to schedule a regular service dedicated to detecting oil leaks. But, if the heating oil tank is no longer in use, (and you never plan to revive it) you’re better off decommissioning it.

Fire or Explosion Hazards

Since oil vapor is not very combustible, many people don’t expect heating oil tanks to pose a fire hazard. But, under certain conditions, heating oil tanks can present a hazard. Exposing the oil vapor to sparks and oxygen makes the vapors become more combustible.

For example, if the pressure relief valve fails while there is still some residual heat in the system, a high-pressure fuel leak could occur. That runoff may travel to an ignition source, flashing back and causing an explosion. The result could mean serious injuries or death to anyone nearby.

Legal Obligations

There are a few instances that you would have to decommission your oil tank by order of the law. For example, if you have an abandoned oil tank on your property, some states will make you decommission it.

Moreover, environmental services may assess your property and find that your oil tank poses a significant risk of leakage or contamination. If that happens, you may become legally obligated to decommission the tank.

It’s worth noting that you cannot repair a leaking tank. The only option in this situation is removing or replacing oil tanks.

What’s Involved in Heating Oil Tank Decommissioning?

Depending on the size and type of oil tank, the decommissioning process can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days. But if there are multiple tanks at the facility, it could take much longer.

The decommissioning process often begins with an environmental site assessment. The company you bring on to decommission your water tank will send a technician to check out your situation.

They’ll assess the size of the tank, consider the environmental risk, and make a decommissioning plan. At that time, you’ll get a better understanding of how long it will take and learn about any additional costs not discussed in your quote.

Decommissioning an Above Ground Heating Oil Tank

Now, the decommissioning process may begin. Above-ground tanks have a rather straightforward decommissioning process. Your service provider will begin by draining and cleaning the tank.

Then, they may remove it from your property or you could try selling it for scrap at a junkyard. But most tanks are steel so you can’t expect a large payday for the scrap metal.

Decommissioning an In-Ground Heating Oil Tank

However, decommissioning a below-ground heating oil tank is another beast. Often, these tanks are massive. Moreover, they pose a greater environmental threat if they’re leaking.

If the below-ground tank is not leaking nor does it pose a risk to the environment, the process is somewhat simple. The oil tank decommissioning service will take the following steps:

  1. Pump out the tank and clean it
  2. Fill the tank with a slurry of sand or concrete
  3. Collect soil samples from the surrounding area for testing
  4. Cut off and seal pipes leading to the tank (e.g. fill and vent pipes)
  5. If necessary, register the tank with relevant environmental services

Leaking tanks require more care. In addition to the previous steps, the soil surrounding the tank must get removed and replaced.

Sometimes, the levels of contamination are too high or the removal of soil would damage or impact structures. In that case, you may need what’s called a “risk-based decision-making cleanup.”

Basically, you’ll decommission the tank with some contamination still on the property. This can only happen if the service determines the residual contamination won’t impact the health of individuals or the environment.

How Much Will It Cost to Have My Tank Decommissioned?

The average cost to decommission a tank by removal is between $1,700-$3,000. However, you can expect a range of costs depending on the size of the project, whether the tank is above ground or underground, and whether you’re experiencing leaks and contamination.

The lower end of the removal spectrum represents above-ground or basement oil tanks. Since there’s no excavation required, these tanks tend to cost less for removal.

If you want to remove an above-ground oil tank is $1,000-$2,500, to install an above-ground tank expect to pay $3,500-5,000 in the Portland Metropolitan Area. 

Underground Heating Oil Tank Decommissioning Cost by Size

If your underground oil tank is not leaking, there’s a good chance you can accurately predict how much decommissioning will cost. The following table is the average cost of decommissioning an underground oil tank by size:

  • 550 gallons or smaller: $1,800- $2,500
  • 1,000-1,499 gallons: $3,500- $4,500
  • 1,500-1,999 gallons: $4,000-$5,000
  • 2,000-2,999 gallons: $5,000-$6000
  • 3,000 gallons or larger: $6,000+

These figures increase in major ways if you need environmental cleanup. For example, the EPA reports that the average cost of underground storage tank cleanup is up to $130,000. But, major cleanups may cost upwards of $1 million depending on just how much contamination there is.

Can I Save Money Removing an Oil Tank Myself?

Removing an oil tank is not a DIY project. It requires expert technicians, approvals, and an amount of caution only professionals can achieve. Don’t risk injury, toxic exposure, or trouble with the city trying to save a quick buck.

Extra Cost Considerations

Oil tank decommission costs only cover the price of the service. But, you may incur other costs throughout the process. For example, if the underground oil tank is on your business’ property, you may have to shut down operations the day/days of the service.

Moreover, in extreme cases, contaminated soil may impact surrounding structures. You may incur further demolition and construction costs to remove the contaminated areas.

As noted previously, if possible your service provider will try to avoid that. But, risk-based decision-making cleanup isn’t always an option.

Oil Tank Decommission Costs: Get Your Quote Today

At the end of the day, it’s hard to pinpoint an exact cost for heating oil tank decommissioning. The best way to know is to consult with a professional. If you’re looking for oil decommissioning services in Portland Oregon at competitive prices, Alpha Environmental can help.Our committed team of environmental experts has over 20 years of experience. We offer quality services at unbeatable prices to residential and commercial customers in the greater Portland area. Contact us today for a free consultation.

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