Plastic, Steel and Hybrid Tanks

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When choosing a new tank, the first question many people consider is whether to choose a steel tank or to opt instead for a plastic tank. Below you’ll find an overview of each tank type, together with information on the relative merits and drawbacks of each.

Plastic Heating Oil Tanks  

Most Plastic Heating Oil Tanks sold in Great Britain, Ireland, the Channel Islands and Isle of Man today are rotationally moulded plastic tanks. Rotational moulding is a long-established manufacturing process. It produces largely unstressed, hollow products with excellent impact and chemical resistance properties – making it ideal for the manufacture of oil storage tanks.

Steel Heating Oil Tanks

Before the introduction of plastic tanks in the early 1980s, almost every heating oil tank was manufactured from steel. And today, despite the popularity of plastic tanks, steel tanks remain available. They are manufactured by welding lengths of sheet steel together. Whilst steel tanks account for only a minority of domestic heating oil tank sales, they still remain a popular choice at larger capacity commercial, industrial and institutional fuel storage installations.

Pros and Cons

So, what’s the best choice? Steel or plastic? The simple answer is that each type of tank has its own merits and drawbacks. We don’t recommend one over the other. Instead, the ideal choice for your home, farm or business will depend upon your budget and location. To help you decide, we’ve listed some of the benefits and disadvantages of each material below:

  • Plastic tanks are lighter than steel tanks. This makes plastic heating oil tanks easier to handle, transport and install;

  • Plastic tanks are corrosion resistant and do not require painting;

  • Steel tanks frequently corrode from the inside. So no matter how good a steel tank may appear on the outside, you can’t easily tell its condition on the inside;

  • Steel tanks are available in a much greater range of sizes and capacities than plastic tanks;

  • Plastic tanks are available in a wider range of shapes and designs;

  • Many steel tank manufacturers can manufacture ‘one-off’ tanks to specific dimensions – a service that is not available from any plastic tank manufacturer;

  • Plastic tanks are manufactured from a chemically inert polymer, whereas steel tanks often react with the fuel stored inside them. This creates a toxic sludge inside steel tank, which must be removed periodically and disposed of responsibly;

  • Smaller capacity plastic tanks frequently cost less than a steel equivalent. However, larger capacity plastic tanks will frequently cost more than an equivalent steel model tank.

  • Because steel tanks can be easily painted, you can colour match them to the environment in which they are installed. By contrast, plastic heating oil tanks are almost always green in colour and usually cannot be painted;

  • Plastic tanks can be installed directly on to a suitably prepared base at ground level. Many - but not all - steel tanks however, need to be raised from the ground and placed upon piers.  

Hybrid Tanks

As well as plastic and steel tanks, hybrid tanks are also available. Typically, a hybrid tank comprises a rotationally moulded, plastic inner tank which sits inside a steel outer tank or ‘bund’. The manufacturers of these tanks claim they offer the durability of plastic with the strength of steel. Whilst hybrid tanks comprising a GRP outer and plastic inner tank are frequently found at underground oil tank installations, they're something of a rarity aboveground. 

Still Unsure?

If you’re unsure whether to choose steel or plastic, why not speak with friends of neighbours who use oil heating and ask for their experience and advice? Your local fuel distributor and heating oil tank installer should also be able to help. And of course, you’re very welcome to contact us for free guidance and advice. You can call us in the UK, Channel Islands and Isle of Man on 01789 632 151 and in the Republic of Ireland on 01 5268 642. Alternatively, you can e-mail We’re open weekdays from 9am to 5pm - excluding Bank and Public Holidays - and we look forward to your call.

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