Underground Petroleum Storage Systems (UPSS) have the potential to leak, particularly as they age, leading to expensive clean-up bills and damage to the environment.

If leaks go undetected they can have a major impact on neighbouring properties and impose very significant costs on the tank owner and the broader community. They can also make it difficult to sell an existing site without costly remediation works.

Given these issues, particularly the potential for environmental damage that can be caused by tanks leaks going undetected for a substantial period of time, all Australian State and Territory Governments have UPSS Regulations in place. These Regulations requires owners and operators to regularly check for leaks in the fuel tanks and pipes used to store and handle petroleum products.

They also need to meet minimum standards in their day-to-day management of these storage systems, with potential for a non-compliant business to be fined up to $1 million per breach – plus the cost of clean-up and remediation.

“One of the easiest way to be compliant with these laws and maintain peace of mind is to regularly undertake Statistical Inventory Reconciliation Analysis (SIRA),” said Barry Bone (Managing Director of Petrolink Engineering).

SIRA is a proven methodology to accurately manage fuel inventories. SIRA analyses fuel inventory data (sales, deliveries, product levels, and meter readings) by comparing fuel ‘ins’ and outs’ ‘to provide an indication of:

  • Tank and Line Integrity
  • Accuracy of fuel dispensers
  • Tank Tilt / Incorrect Tank Charts
  • Accuracy of fuel meter calibration
  • Fuel theft

In underground storage tank systems, there are generally three areas where fuel can general be lost: sales, deliveries or a leak in the tank and lines.

“A loss of fuel through sales is generally an indication that the forecourt pumps are dispensing a greater volume of fuel than recorded on pump meters.”

“A loss of fuel through deliveries is almost always discrepancy between the number of litres that have been reported as delivered and the number of litres actually received”, Barry continued.

If the integrity of the tank or line is compromised, then fuel (and associated revenue) can be lost.

The most common area where fuel losses are identified is in the sales process, because of poor calibration of pump meters. While individual meter miscalibrations may appear to be small and insignificant, these miscalibrations can result in the loss of significant profits when considered in aggregate over time.

SIRA technology – such as Petrolink’s SIRvey system – provides fuel retailers with the ability to record daily tank readings. These readings are then sent to an EPA Certified company for analysis and provision of a report back to the fuel retailer (SIRvey can also provide the fuel retailer with early notice of potential issues, such as underground leakage).

While the legislation requiring UPSS monitoring has been in place in most Australian States and Territories for several years, the enforcement of these regulations has been patchy. In addition, regulatory authorities such as EPA and local councils have a limited capacity to monitor SIRA and many operators remain unaware of the legal requirements to comply with these regulations.

Nonetheless, recent issues with abandoned sites has given rise to tighter regulations in NSW and the introduction of voluntary reporting requirements in Victoria.

Non-compliance can mean significant fines but the real risk is a devaluation of the retail site caused by groundwater and soil contamination arising from undetected leaks of the UPSS.

“Put simply, the regular use of a SIRA certified systems such as Petrolink’s SIRvey system makes good sense from both an environmental and commercial perspective”, said Barry.

For further information on SIRA and SIRvey, please contact Petrolink Engineering on 1300 738 075 or visit the web site at: petrolink.com.au/services/petrolink-sirvey