Does fuel expire? Do petrol and diesel have a shelf life, how long it takes to go bad - how to store safely

The RAC say that storing fuel like petrol and diesel at home ‘isn’t advisable for the average driver’

Environment Secretary George Eustice has called on motorists to stop “panic-buying” petrol and return to their normal pattern of purchasing.

Eustice said there was not a shortage of fuel and blamed motorists for filling up when they did not need to for some petrol stations running dry.

“The most important thing is that people buy petrol as they normally would. There isn’t a shortage. There have been some shortages of HGV drivers getting petrol to forecourts but actually that is quite limited,” he said in a pooled clip for broadcasters.

“The cause of these current problems is that panic-buying episode and the most important thing is for people to start buying petrol as they normally would.”

With people concerned over a lack of fuel, some have been taking jerry cans to their local forecourts to stock up.

But is that safe to do? And how long does petrol keep for before it goes ‘off’?

The answers might surprise you.

Should you keep petrol at home?

“There is always a risk when storing flammable liquid,” says the RAC, “so for the average driver, keeping fuel at home isn’t advisable.”

“There are rules for home storage, but you should only do so if you’re confident that you can keep it legally, safely and with the right equipment,” it says.

You’re only allowed to keep a certain amount of properly-stored petrol at home at any time.

The Health and Safety Executive states that individuals are limited to storing 30 litres of petrol without a licence. However, this can only be done with certain restrictions on the type of container:

  • Plastic container - storing up to 10 litres
  • Metal container - storing up to 20 litres
  • Demountable fuel tank - storing up to 30 litres

You will need to contact the Petroleum Enforcement Authority if you wish to keep more than 30 litres at home.

If you are going to keep fuel at home, it should be stored in either a plastic portable container or a metal jerry can with a tight-fitting cap, one that is designed specifically for use with petrol or diesel.

It is legal to take a plastic container or a metal jerry can to a fuel station and fill it up, though some filling stations have certain rules about the size and style of the container, so ask ahead of time if you’re unsure.

How long does petrol keep for?

The RAC says that, generally speaking, “petrol has a shelf-life of six months if stored in a sealed container at 20 degrees – or just three months if kept at 30 degrees.

“The more it’s exposed to heat, the more quickly it will go off.”

The quality of your container also matters too, as if it isn’t tightly sealed, you’ll be able to keep it for even less time. In this instance, there is also the increased fire risk due to flammable vapours escaping.

Diesel can remain usable for between six and 12 months before becoming ‘gummy’; if diesel is used in this state, it can clog up and cause issues with your engine.

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