What we heard report: Review of the storage tank regulations

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Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) initiated a review of the Storage Tank Systems for Petroleum Products and Allied Petroleum Product Regulations (the Regulations) in 2020. This review was part of the departmental Regulatory stock review plan. The Regulations have been in place since 2008 and any amendments thus far have been administrative in nature. The review of the Regulations was needed to:

The review also provided an opportunity to clarify some aspects of the current Regulations. We also sought feedback on technology, knowledge, and strategies as they have evolved since 2008. This report presents:

How we consulted

As part of the stock review exercise, pre-engagement was initiated in March 2022 to increase awareness of the process. It also provided notice of the upcoming engagement activities as part of the stock review exercise. Outreach was undertaken to the following groups:

In July 2022, we released a discussion document to solicit feedback from Indigenous peoples, regulatees, and other interested stakeholders. The discussion document summarized information on the Regulations and identified specific areas for comment. Over 12,000 contacts received notification of the publication of the discussion document via email. In addition, we promoted the publication using ECCCs social media accounts and webpages.

In order to support meaningful national consultations during the COVID-19 pandemic, we held the majority of activities online. Engagement activities included:

This report summarizes and consolidates the feedback received during these activities.

Who participated

We received a significant number of comments (over 700) representing the views of 30 different interrested parties. We also met with First Nation organizations, industry, standard organizations and some regulatees. We wish to thank everyone who provided input.

Between March to November 2022, ECCC received comments from people in the following categories:

The majority of verbal and written comments received were from federal departments and agencies as well as consulting firms.

Key elements

The discussion document solicited feedback on all elements of the Regulations. Using the same headings found in the Regulations, we posed a series of guiding questions for each topic to help focus the comments.

Overall, stakeholders were in favor of having an instrument to regulate storage tank systems under federal jurisdiction. The need for emergency generators for life safety, dispensing fuel to fleets, and heating systems connected to storage tanks are still in demand and necessary to support Canadians in their day-to-day activities. As such, the Regulations are necessary to reduce the risk of releases into the environment.

Comments received outlined concerns, challenges and considerations related to numerous elements of the Regulations, including:

Feedback received on each of the topics highlights the need to modernize the Regulations.

The Figure 1. Breakdown of written comments by implementation topic shows the number of comments received for each of the topic. Compliance with design, product transfer areas, and installation were the topics received the highest number of comments. 

Figure 1. Breakdown of written comments on discussion document by implementation topic

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Figure 1 - Text Version

Figure 1 provides the number of comments ECCC received during the engagement activities divided by the 15 implementation topics presented in the discussion document using the same headings found in the Regulations. Of the 728 comments received, 52 relate to interpretation (section 1), 24 relate to application (section 2), 44 relate to general (sections 3 to 13), 83 relate to compliance with requirements (section 14), 72 relate to product transfer areas (section 15), 62 relate to leak detection (section 16 to 27), 32 relate to identification (section 28), 53 relate to fuel delivery (section 29), 55 relate to emergency plan (sections 30 to 32), 68 relate to installation (sections 33 to 34), 58 relate to operation and maintenance (sections 35 to 40), 34 relate to temporary withdrawal (section 43), 64 relate to removal (sections 44 to 45), 14 relate to record keeping (section 46) and 13 relate to release reporting (section 41).

What we heard

This report summarizes all comments received organized by implementation topic. We do not attribute them to any specific organization or individual. The guiding questions for each implementation topic can be found in the Appendix A of this report.

This report is reflective of what we heard from interested participants throughout the engagement process but does not reflect policy direction or ECCC’s intent.

General comments

This section covers broad and miscellaneous comments:

Definitions (section 1)

We heard about the need to define certain terminology and improve some of the current definitions in the Regulations. The suggestions are as follows:

Collapsible fabric storage tank

Add a definition.

Emergency generator

Add a definition.

Consider the definition in section 1 of the Canadian Standards Association standard on Emergency electrical power supply for buildings (CSA C282).

Person approved

Add a definition.

Petroleum product / Allied petroleum product

Include recovered petroleum.

Define “waste oil” to help differentiate it from "used oil".

Revise inclusion criteria for allied petroleum products.


Add a definition.

Storage tank system

Add the following into the current definition:

Temporary withdrawal

Add a definition.

We also heard that the following aspects should be considered when developing a new definition:

Transfer area and section 15

As currently written, the requirement for a product transfer area (PTA) is not prescriptive. We heard that there is much room for interpretation.

We also heard that a more comprehensive description of what should be included be specified in the Regulations. The following suggestions were provided:


Include a trigger to distinguish when a system is considered new versus an existing system being upgraded.

Storage tank systems application (section 2)

We heard feedback about improving some of the application provisions, including exemptions.

Federal work and undertaking

Paragraph 2(1)(b) ‘to provide a service to’ is open to different interpretations. Rewording was suggested to ensure the intent of the application is well understood among railway and airport operations.

Indoor STS

It was suggested that adding indoor STS to the application of the Regulations may provide better environmental protection. However, we also heard that indoor systems pose a low risk for releases. This is due to their level of containment and lack of exposure to the outdoor elements.

Adding indoor STS would significantly increase the administrative burden. As such, an assessment of the risk of fuel releases from these systems was suggested. This would help determine whether adding them to the Regulations would actually mitigate any risks.

Exception of 2,500 L storage tank systems connected to emergency generators

There was a variety of feedback related to the options for regulating STS under 2,500L connected to emergency generators. Many considerations were raised should all STS connected to emergency generators be regulated, such as:

General requirements (sections 3 to 13)

Potential prohibition and requirement – Underground STS

We heard that removing single-walled underground tanks and piping would have a low impact. This is due to the rarity of this type of system. However, some single walled installations are still in service in Northern regions.          

A prohibition of all single-walled underground storage tank systems could be costly. This would also increase logistical challenges in replacing them. Given this, some exemptions or alternative approaches were proposed specifically for Northern regions.

Use of secondary containment

We heard that regulatees are aware of the risks that accumulated surface water or snow pose to secondary containment capacity.

Many factors were raised regarding difficulties in complying with section 13 (secondary containment must not be used for storage purposes), such as:

Compliance with requirements (design/installation, section 14)

We received a considerable number of comments regarding the technical design and installation requirements.

Method of reference by incorporation

We heard a strong desire to reduce the number of references or to use a different approach to incorporate standards into the Regulations to facilitate their interpretation.

Relevance of referenced standards

Comments received highlighted the need to include additional design and inspection codes and standards. These would complement the regulatory objective and align with the requirements of other jurisdictions. The following were suggested:

Flexibility for STS specifications

We heard that the Regulations need more design flexibilities. This would ensure that a STS can be adapted to specific geographical and climate conditions.

Allowing more flexibility for STS specifications/prescription was also suggested. This could be done by limiting the number of standards and permitting professional engineers to design using their professional discretion.

Regulatory challenges with the commissioning processes

We heard that allowing a certain amount of fuel in the STS to perform commissioning would be helpful. The current requirements to comply with the installation and design requirements prior to the transfer of fuel products to STS are not technically implementable with industry practices.

Design and installation of dispensing systems

Incorporating dispensing systems up to the nozzle into the definition of STS was recommended. However, we heard this should only be done if the NFCC is aligned with the regulatory objective.

Should dispensers up to the nozzle become regulated, an exemption for dispensing systems in railway systems was suggested. This is due to unique and specific industry standards.

STS components located inside a building

We heard that retrofitting a STS located inside a building would be expensive. This would include implementing inspection and maintenance programs. Example are retrofitting for visual inspections or continuous leak detection.

We also heard that the requirements in chapter 7 of the CSA-B139 should be considered for STS inside a building. This would ensure they align and do not cause conflict.

Repurposing tanks and piping

Generally, regulatees would like to be able to repurpose tanks and piping that are in good condition. However, clear direction on when/what/how a tank can be repurposed would be needed.

We also heard the following should be considered for repurposed tanks:

Manufactured dual-purpose tanks in Canada

The following examples of manufactured dual-purpose tanks used in Canada were provided:

Use of dual-purpose tanks

We heard that dual-purpose tanks are used for the following purposes:

We also heard that regulatees would like clarity on when a dual-purpose tank system falls under the Transportation of Dangerous Goods (TDG) or under ECCC’s application.

Reducing environmental risk

Several comments received suggested adding requirements to help protect health and the environment, especially in sensitive areas.

The following considerations were provided:

Compliance with requirements (product transfer areas, section 15)

We heard that the product transfer area requirements create significant obstacles. The following issues were raised:

Costs associated with the design and implementation of a product transfer area

Predicting the cost of designing and implementing a PTA can be challenging. This is due to many different factors such as remoteness, size of tanks, operation, and physical design. Given this, costs vary greatly.

It was suggested that adding a requirement for standing operating procedures (SOP)s to be in place may lower costs.

Challenges with designing a product transfer area

Many challenges with designing a PTA were highlighted, including:

Guidance to assist in risk managing a product transfer area

There was general agreement that most releases occur due to human error, not equipment failure.

Some suggestions we heard to improve the PTA requirements include:

STS types with lower probability of releases

The design of certain storage tank systems already makes them a lower risk than others for releases. For example, fuel pumped by a truck or used oil tanks. Consideration for these was requested to reduce the operational and administrative burden.

We heard that the following other types of STS have a lower risk of release:

Restrictions with implementing section 15 prior to the first transfer into the STS

We heard support for having a PTA implemented prior to the first transfer of fuel into a STS. However, it was suggested to add specifications for the commissioning of a PTA. This would ensure the area has been tested and is operable. This would confirm the PTA meets its intent of containing a release.

Leak detection (sections 16 to 27)

There is support for better inspection and leak detection oversight. The Regulations already prescribe leak detection and monitoring requirements for specific STS that were installed before June 12, 2008.

Challenges for operators and inspectors should leak detection methods be imposed for all STS

We heard the following considerations should leak detection methods be imposed for all systems:


We heard feedback highlighting that remote areas lack reliable power which prevents the proper use of automatic electronic monitoring.

Contrary to urban settings, repairing and maintaining leak detection systems in remote locations is challenging and so is difficult to implement.

Leak detection and monitoring designs commonly used to detect a release in liquid form

We heard about the following leak detection and monitoring designs:

Common maintenance and inspection programs and their frequency

We heard that the following maintenance and inspection programs are being used:

Practicality of the prescribed leak detection requirements

We heard the following concerns regarding the current prescribed piping and sump leak detection requirements:

Challenges with mandatory annual testing of detection monitoring systems and its components

We heard support for the concept of conducting inspections on detection monitoring systems and its components. However, there were strong concerns about high costs, time constraints, accessibility, and staff availability.

Obstacles with conducting corrosion analysis programs

We heard the following concerns regarding implementing corrosion analysis programs:

Identification (section 28)

We received a variety of comments about the existing labelling and reporting requirements.

Prescribing how to label STS

We heard that having more prescriptive requirements for labelling would be helpful, particularly for fuel suppliers, in order to increase the visibility of a STS.

If prescriptive labelling requirements are implemented, the wide variety of STS present under federal jurisdiction needs to be considered.

60-day timeline for reporting identification changes

We heard that the current 60 days for reporting to ECCC may not be sufficient.

Many regulatees indicated that the information required for identification is typically provided by the contractor or consultant and then vetted through the client/owner.

An increase in the timeline to 90 days was suggested to ensure accurate information is reported to ECCC.

Delivery of petroleum products or allied petroleum products (section 29)

Advantages/disadvantages of continuous supervision of the filling operations

We heard that many regulatees in urban areas find this advantageous as it could reduce the risk of releases.

However, we also heard the following concerns:

Ensuring proper filling operation in the absence of supervision

We heard the following suggestions from a variety of stakeholders:

Prescribing storage tanks filled beyond their safe filling level

Most comments received were in favor of prescribing that storage tanks shall not be filled beyond their safe filling level.

Practicality of prescribing standard operation procedure be in place prior to delivery

All feedback received was in favor of prescribing that standard operation procedures be in place prior to delivery. This could reduce the risk of spillage, and consequently reduce the environmental risks to nearby water bodies.

Cautions was raised about the simplicity and adaptability of SOPs to remote northern facilities.

Emergency plan (sections 30–32)

In order to assist regulatees with the implementation of the emergency plan, a few considerations were raised.

Clarifications required for the preparation of the emergency plan

We heard that a template as a preparatory guide for the emergency plan would be useful.

Administrative concerns

We heard that keeping the plan up to date is challenging because of staff turnover and difficulties in tracking specific trainings and names.

In addition, the prescribed area of where to keep the emergency plan is not suitable for proper implementation purposes in all scenarios across Canada, for example in remote areas.

Cost associated with the development and implementation of the emergency plan

We heard that the cost of developing an emergency plan can depend on several factors. These include the number of systems at the facility and who is developing the plan.

We also heard that some regulatees have their staff who can draft a plan. Others do not and must hire an outside consultant.

According to the feedback received, developing an environmental emergency plan could range from $2,000 to $10,000.

Providing a copy of the emergency plan to the local fire department

Half of the comments received indicate that it is acceptable to ensure a copy of the emergency plan is supplied to the local fire department.

The other half however, highlighted obstacles that would increase the administrative burden. We heard how impractical it would be given the significant variations in local fire departments.

Mandatory spill kits, fire extinguishers and signage

Most stakeholders expressed that imposing spill kits, fire extinguishers, and signage would be helpful.

We also heard the following recommendations:

Potential duplication of the emergency plan requirements with other legislations, bylaws and codes

Concerns were raised regarding emergency plan requirement duplication with the following:

Installation of storage tank systems (sections 33–34)


We heard that regulatees would like more flexibility on who can perform installations. This would provide more options for them when securing the required skilled labour.

Currently in Canada, the available certification programs do not train their certified installers to install bladders and bulk-type railroad STS.

Design and drawing

We received many comments related to eliminating or reducing the requirements for having design plans, drawings and specifications signed and stamped by a professional engineer for certain STS. This would better align with existing industry practices.

Common types of drawings used for a new installation project

We heard that the most common drawing names or documents used for a STS installation are:

Terminology used when referring to specific “drawings”

We heard of the following terms when referring to specific ‘drawing’ for an STS installation:

We also heard that the term ‘as-built drawings’ is not consistently used across Canada. Because of this, it was suggested that the term be evaluated for an alternative. Another suggestion was to simply define it in the Interpretation section of the Regulations.

Clarity needed for specific requirements during installation projects

The following scenarios were mentioned where clarifications are needed for specific requirements during installation project:

Common practices when stamping drawings

We heard that a registered professional engineer must stamp the drawings for various types of STS for both new and upgraded installations.

We also hear that during construction, the contractor red lines any deviations from the design drawings. This red-lined version and site photographs are provided to the engineer. The engineer then prepares and stamps the as-built drawings accordingly.

Content of the record and/or as-built drawings

We did not receive any comments specific to what can be found on the record and/or as-built drawing.

Instead, we were provided with some elements that are not typically included in as-built drawings, such as outlines of building foundations and property lines.

We heard a suggestion to consider mechanical, electrical, civil and structural aspects of typical projects when reviewing section 34 of the Regulations.

Industry practices when “standalone type tanks” are installed

We did not receive any comments specific to common practices used in the industry for the installation of “standalone type tanks”.

We heard favourable comments about eliminating the need to have design plans, drawings and specifications for small stand-alone STS signed and stamped by a professional engineer.

We also heard differing information on how these ‘standalone tanks’ are being managed during installation across Canada.

Overall, comments received recommended that some ‘stand-alone systems’ be installed without the mandatory use of a provincially approved person or supervised by professional engineer. As an alternative approach it was suggested to put the liability on operators instead.

Operation and maintenance (sections 35–40)

We heard about the lack of operation and maintenance procedures for the STS as a whole. The current operation and management provisions relate only to oil-water separators (OWS) and water bottoms.

Other regular activities to ensure that a system is well maintained

We heard favorable feedback about adding regular activities to ensure that a STS is operated and maintained properly. These activities include:

We were also referred to existing codes of practice to ensure that a STS is operated and maintained properly. These include:

Time frame considerations for completing a regular inspection or other maintenance activity

We heard the following views about inspection/maintenance activities:

Current minimum maintenance practices in the industry recommended by manufacturers

We did not receive any comments specific to current minimum maintenance practices. It was suggested to include language that indicates operators must follow the minimum manufacturer intent.

Oil-water separators

We heard there is a need for clarification and for some flexibility regarding the prescribed oil-water separator (OWS) maintenance methods. This would ensure they are achievable across all Canadian regions.

We also heard that clarification is needed on when an OWS is a component of the STS and when it is not. The Quebec Construction Code was mentioned, as an example.

Water bottom removal

Water bottom inspections for some steel tanks were mostly supported. However, we heard that the type, usage and location of the tank should be considered before adding any new requirements.

Most comments proposed an annual frequency for water removal inspections.

Disposal challenges

While most regulatees are in favour of testing fuel for the presence of water, they shared the following comments:

Release Report (section 41)

Reporting all releases regardless of quantity or location

There is general support for not reporting all releases. This would be very time-consuming and would increase the administrative burden.

Recommendations were made to harmonize with the Transport and Dangerous Goods Regulations and the Environmental Emergency Regulations (E2) to reduce the level of effort.

Withdrawal from service (temporary and permanent) (section 42)

Activities related to withdrawal from service

We did not hear any comments specific to activities to be considered during withdrawal from service.

Clarification on the type of activities that are permissible under a temporary withdrawal from service was requested.

Temporary withdrawal from service (section 43)

Timeline (less than 2 years)

We heard that the current timeline may not be sufficient. This is due to a shortage of skilled laborers and supply chain challenges.

We also heard the following concerns about remote northern sites:

A duration of 5 years was recommended. In addition, it was suggested to include a mechanism for requesting an extension if the current timeline remains the same.

Additional reporting requirements

We heard that almost half of the respondents favoured reporting the dates of temporary withdrawals. The other half questioned its added value.

Operational challenges to maintaining an STS during a temporary withdrawal

Clarification on the maintenance activities to be performed while not in use was requested.

We heard of the following operational challenges faced during a temporary withdrawal:

The NFCC and the API guidelines for maintaining a STS temporarily withdrawn were mentioned for consideration purposes.

Permanent withdrawal from service (section 44)

Additional details about the permanent withdrawal

We heard that providing a reason for the withdrawal and indicating whether the system was replaced could help retrieve past information. This could improve information management.


We heard that the existing labelling requirement as part of the permanent withdrawal from service of the tank is not necessary when the removal is done at the same time of the permanent withdrawal. It was recommended to remove the labelling requirements in those circumstances. It was proposed to allow locking out the fill port instead of labeling the system. The current labelling requirements seem to be an extraneous administrative burden.

Removal of storage tank systems (section 45)

Timeline to remove the STS and or components considering remote location

We heard that the lack of a timeline has presented challenges for regulatees. A prescribed removal deadline is preferred, as none currently exists.

However, a mechanism should be considered to provide additional time for the following specific circumstances:

Generally, we heard that:

Withdrawal/disposal report (closure report)

The feedback received indicated that the preparation of a closure report by a contractor would be helpful for:

Reporting details about the removal

We heard that reporting specific details to ECCC would have a low impact. However, it was highlighted that this could increase the administrative burden.

Challenges to physically remove a STS

We heard of the following challenges to physically remove a STS:

Consideration for Removal - Abandonment

Comments received proposed allowing the abandonment in place of a storage tank or its components for specific situations, such as:

We heard that when removing a tank is not feasible, referral to the Civil Code of Quebec could be considered.

We also heard that record keeping for historic, further site use, and insurance purposes seems inconsistent across the country. Records, if kept, may include some of the following:

Record keeping (section 46)

Records on maintenance and service

Half of the comments received anticipate a low impact if new requirements were imposed on operators to keep records of the work maintenance and service work performed on storage tank systems. The other half expected a significant amount of effort.

We heard that the impacts of imposing record keeping of maintenance and service work would vary depending on the following factors:

Retention location

Regulatees requested revisions to the current requirement of where to keep records to allow for flexibility given modern electronic recordkeeping practices.

Schedule 2

We received a considerable number of suggestions for improving the functionality of the Federal Identification Registry of Storage Tank Systems (FIRSTS). Recommendations include:

Our discussion document asked if there was additional information that regulatees felt should be reported to ECCC through FIRSTS. While we did not receive any comments specific to that question, we did hear that landowners would like to have access to the FIRSTS records that pertain to storage tank systems on their land, regardless of whether they own them or not.

Next steps

Overall, there was general support for improving the Regulations. Several key issues and challenges were raised which will be taken into consideration during ECCC’s continued analysis.

The recommendation from the stock review is to amend the Regulations. Here is the link to access the result : Regulatory stock review plan 2019 to 2029: Environment and Climate Change Canada - Canada.ca . Further engagement will be aligned with future regulatory initiatives.

We would like to thank everyone who took the time and effort to provide feedback on the discussion document.


Appendix A: Questions from the Discussion Document – Review of the storage tank regulations

The questions in this Annex are the same as those in the Discussion Document.

Definitions (section 1)

Storage tank system application (section 2)

General requirements (section 3 to 13)

Compliance with requirements (design/installation, section 14)

Compliance with requirements (transfer area, section 15)

Leak detection (sections 16 to 23)

Identification (section 28)

Delivery of petroleum products or allied petroleum products (section 29)

Emergency plan (sections 30-32)

Installation of storage tank systems (sections 33-34)

Operations and maintenance (sections 35-40)

Release report (section 41)

If all releases are to be reported regardless of quantity or location, what would be the negative impact on the regulated community

Withdrawal from service (sections 42 to 44)

Removal of storage tank systems (section 45)

Record keeping (section 46)

What would be the impacts if some requirements were imposed on operators to keep records of the work maintenance and service work performed on storage tank systems? If so, what would be the additional level of effort

Schedule 2

Broad questions

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