If you have an underground propane tank that you no longer want to use, here are some suggestions and requirements for its removal or abandonment.
If the tank belongs to a propane company, contact them about having it removed. Since they own it, it is not proper for anyone else to remove it without advance notice of its disconnection and removal. As these tanks have some value, most companies will want to remove it so it can go into use at another location.
The cost of removing the tank depends on some pre-existing conditions. If there is a contract between you and the propane company, whatever charges are stipulated in that contract will govern the costs they can charge to remove it and in the consideration of what will be done about the propane that is still in the tank. If there is no contract, then there should be no charge to the customer for removing the tank and they should receive a refund on the full value of the propane in the tank based on the cost per gallon at the last delivery. The Consumer Protection Section of the Attorney General's Office has determined that removing the tank is the company retrieving its property and should not cost the consumer anything.
The issue of reimbursement for propane remaining in the tank can be avoided by using all or nearly all of the propane in the tank before the tank is removed. Also, if the service is being taken over by a natural gas company, there may be an agreement between the natural gas company and the propane companies about how to be dealt with this.
Next, as far as restoring the property, there is nothing we know of that requires the propane company to restore the property to the condition as they found it. This is especially true if there is significant landscaping above or near the tank. The company is expected to take reasonable precautions against damaging property or plantings, but they may not be too concerned with plants and their care. Also, there is nothing that requires them to fill the hole. Most would not leave a gaping hole that someone could fall into, but they may not have access to soil to put in the hole. Please consider these points when scheduling removal of a tank. Ask questionsof the company about their practices and how you can help in getting things done to your satisfaction.
Propane tanks may be abandoned in place. Unlike other petroleum products, the EPA does not consider propane to be a groundwater contaminant. There will be no "superfund site" status attached to your property when a propane tank is left in place. Sometimes a tank is old enough or other conditions make removal of the tank an economic burden. There is an acceptable and specified procedure to abandon a tank in place. The accepted procedure is to:
1) remove as much of the liquid as practical,
2) remove as much or the remaining vapor as practical through a vapor connection,
3) burn off or release the remaining pressure,
4) fill the tank with water, sand, or foamed plastic or purge it with an inert gas, such as nitrogen.
These steps should be performed by a person or company with the experience and training to do so properly and safely.
There is another consideration for abandoning a tank in place. These tanks are made of steel and steel rusts and corrodes. Since a tank buried in North Carolina is almost certainly going to be in ground with some moisture, eventually the tank will corrode to the point of having no structural integrity. Depending on the depth of burial and the type of soil, there could be some settling of the ground surface. It is conceivable that there might be a minor cave-in.
Page last modified on March 23, 2012.