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5 Tips for Safely Storing Gasoline and Diesel Fuel


Gasoline and diesel fuel are essential for powering vehicles, generators and a variety of heavy-duty equipment. Keeping extra fuel on hand can help ensure you are prepared for emergencies or severe weather events. However, since gasoline and diesel are highly flammable, it’s important to take certain safety precautions when storing extra fuel. Follow these tips to help ensure the safe handling and storage of gasoline and diesel fuel.

1. Check Local Regulations and Fire Codes

If you’re considering storing extra gas or diesel fuel, the first step is to check your local regulations to confirm storage quantity and capacity allowances. The National Fire Protection Association NFPA 30 classifies gasoline as a Class 1 flammable liquid and common diesel fuel as a Class 2 flammable liquid. Although the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and the International Fire Code (IFC) have developed safeguards for the safe storage and use of flammables, these guidelines are not mandatory unless a federal, state or local authority chooses to adopt them. However, mandatory regulations have been developed by OSHA. For specific storage requirements and guidelines on the safe storage and use of flammable and combustible liquids, refer to OSHA standards 29 CFR 1910.106 and 29 CFR 1926.152.

2. Only Use Approved Containers

According to OSHA, fuel should only be stored in portable tanks, approved safety cans or containers approved by the Department of Transportation (DOT), Factory Mutual (FM) or Underwriter Laboratory (UL).  Approved fuel containers typically feature a label or wording stating it meets the DOT or other safety standard specifications and include various safety features like automatic pressure vents, flash arrestor screens, tight-fitting lids and a sturdy base. Fuel containers are also often color-coded according to the type of fuel they are designed to hold:

  • Red: Gasoline
  • Yellow: Diesel
  • Blue: Kerosene
  • Green: Oil

3. Carefully Fill the Fuel Container

As you fill a fuel container, keep your face away from the nozzle and avoid possible ignition sources like heat, electricity or sparks by at least 50 feet. To allow room for expansion, the American Petroleum Institute recommends not filling the container more than 95 percent full. Tightly close and seal the container, then mark the fill date to ensure you use the fuel before it expires.

4. Add Fuel Stabilizer

Fuel stabilizers help prevent compounds and microbial growth from forming on the gas. If you aren’t using the fuel within 30 days, make sure to place the required amount of stabilizer in the gas can, then add fresh fuel and seal the cap. Fuel additives can help keep fuel stable for up to two years of storage.

5. Store in a Safe Place

Gasoline and diesel fuel should be stored at room temperature and away from heat sources like direct sunlight, furnaces, water heaters and space heaters. Since gas vapors are heavier than air, they can accumulate at floor level. Therefore, fuel containers should always be stored at least 50 feet away from possible ignition sources. Fuel should be stored away from the building and occupants, ideally in a garage or shed. Never smoke where gasoline is handled or stored.  

It’s important to note OSHA standards limit the maximum size of containers and portable tanks for flammable liquids. The following chart shows the allowable amounts for gasoline and diesel fuel (Category 1 and Category 2 flammable liquids) by container type:

Container Type Gasoline (Category 1) Diesel (Category 2)

Glass or Approved Plastic

1 pint

1 quart 

Metal (Other than DOT drums)

1 gallon

5 gallons

Safety Cans

2 gallons

5 gallons

Metal Drums (DOT specifications)

60 gallons

60 gallons

Approved Portable Tank

660 gallons

660 gallons

OSHA also limits the quantity of liquids that may be kept outside of a storage room, storage cabinet or in any one area of a building, including:

  • 25 gallons of Category 1 and 120 gallons of Category 2 liquids in containers
  • 660 gallons of Category 2 liquids in a single portable tank

The amount of flammable liquid storage and the location of cabinets are also regulated—no more than 60 gallons of Category 1 and 2 flammable liquids may be stored in a safety storage cabinet.

Fuel Storage Tank Requirements

Many industries rely on the safe transport, handling and storage of large quantities of fuel. To help prevent accidental spills, fires or explosions, OSHA states all fuel should be stored responsibly, according to the following guidelines:

  • Do not place fuel tanks where workers are present or in areas where they frequently pass through, including stairways and exits.
  • Never stack portable fuel storage tanks on top of each other if their capacity exceeds 30 gallons or more.
  • Store containers with 25 gallons or more capacity in a properly labeled safety cabinet or wooden cabinet covered in fire-resistant paint and supported by at least an inch of thick plywood on all sides.
  • Never store more than 1,100 gallons of fuel in a building. An external tank should be used to store extra fuel and must be a minimum of 20 feet away from all building structures to allow the fuel tank to be accessible from all sides and to create a barrier between ignition sources.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What containers are approved for storing gasoline?

A: Type I and Type II safety cans are designed to hold small amounts of gasoline. Also commonly referred to as gas cans, these containers feature specially formulated plastic and metal to help avoid deterioration and withstand gasoline’s corrosive effects. Type I gas cans have a single opening for pouring and filling, while Type II cans have two separate openings for filling and pouring and are tested to be OSHA and NFPA-compliant.

Q: How long can gasoline and diesel fuel be stored?

A: There is no standard guide to the shelf life of fuel since it depends on storage conditions. Without a fuel stabilizer or additive, gasoline can start to degrade in about 30 days when exposed to oxygen and other environmental factors that can cause chemical reactions and combustibility issues to occur. One way to tell if gas has gone bad is by smell. Expired gasoline usually appears darker or muddier and has a strong, sour odor different from the scent you’d smell at a gas station. If you store gas properly, it can last at least six months. Under ideal conditions, diesel fuel can last up to 12 months if stored below 70°F. The fuel needs to be treated with fuel stabilizers and biocides to extend the shelf life beyond 12 months.

Q: How do you safely dispose of gasoline and diesel fuel?

A: Always check with your local authority having jurisdiction for specific guidance — this is usually the local Fire Marshal — to confirm the proper way to dispose of spilled gasoline or diesel fuel.

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The information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only and is based on information available as of the initial date of publication. No representation is made that the information or references are complete or remain current. This article is not a substitute for review of current applicable government regulations, industry standards, or other standards specific to your business and/or activities and should not be construed as legal advice or opinion. Readers with specific questions should refer to the applicable standards or consult with an attorney.