How do you safely cut an old heating oil tank in half?

heating oil

I have a heating oil tank in my bqsement I need to remove. It’s too big to fit through the doorway. It needs to be cut in half. The tank is empty but there is sludge at the bottom.

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15 Responses to “How do you safely cut an old heating oil tank in half?”

  1. BuddyL Says:

    A few details here that most of the answerers seem to be forgetting or overlooking…. The tank is in your basement, not buried in the ground. So there’s no law that says you can’t remove it from the basement yourself. That only applies to buried tanks. Another thing being overlooked is that it’s an oil tank, not gasoline. Furnace oil, like diesel or kerosene, must be heated before it’ll burn. It also gives off very little flammable fumes. Flushing it out well with water, and even better, detergent, will get most of the remaining oil and sludge out. Then, if you still feel unsafe, or can still smell oil fumes through the bung hole, you can fill it up to the cut-line with water. But that’s going to be a lot of water, remember! If it’s a 250 gallon tank, that’s 125 gallons of water to dispose of after the cut! Oil floats on water, so you’d still have a closed space with oil in it, just half the size.

    Flattening isn’t much of an option. You’d go deaf before it’s halfway flat! Those tanks are damned tough!

    You could either cut it with a saber saw and metal blade, as has been said, or if you’re brave enough to use a torch, rather than filling it with water, get a helper and garden hose. Have the helper aim the hose through one of the holes, spraying at the inside of the spot you are torch-cutting. You want the water to spray, not blast. This will cool the insides and prevent the area from heating up too much. It’ll also disperse any lingering fumes as well as keeping the entire interior cool enough that what few fumes are there cannot heat up to an explosive level. If you’ve already flushed it with detergent and water, there’s very little danger left anyway. The hose-spraying is just an extra precaution.

    Unless you are experienced in cutting with a torch, your best bet would probably be a saber saw. Torch-cutting is a technique that does take some practice.

    You can, of course snip it. But the only practical snips would be pneumatic, which would require a good-sized air compressor. Hand snips would be less than useless, due to the thickness of the metal. An air chisel too, like is used for removing auto mufflers, would require an air compressor.

    Final choice is yours. Have you considered just knocking out the doorway, and replacing it after the tank is out?

  2. drgoodhi Says:

    don’t use a torch

  3. BigfnD Says:

    better clean that out first as u do not want a fire. then once it is really clean use a saw all (recipricating saw) with a blade for metal. once again be sure to clean it thourgly as a lil spark could cause it to catch fire. good luck

  4. noskwik2 Says:

    From what I’ve seen no tv, they take a heavy pneumatic sheet metal sheer and cut it as to not create sparks. By the way, even the sludge needs to be properly disposed, and then the tank needs cleaned and taken to the recycler.

  5. metrodish Says:

    I would get an electric saws all and start your way from the top.

    As far as the sludge, it depends on how thick it is I would either cut a hole on the side so you can scoop it up with a plastic cup, or just cut the top off from the tank several inches from the bottom and then with 2 people carry the bottom half up the stairs and outside, where you can clean it out there or take the thing on the curb and hope the garbage men take it away.

    If possible I would try to avoid cleaning it in your basement just because of the smell and the fact if you get the sludge on the floor its going to be a pain to clean.

  6. Says:

    Fill it up beyond the half way mark with water, than cut it in half.
    It’s always better to clean it out can also run a water hose to it , and out the other end and run water though it for several minutes . As long as there is no gas in it you will be safe in cutting it.
    You don’t have to use a torch if that bothers you. you can use a drill for a starter hole and than use a jig saw. taking your time you can cut it.

  7. millie a Says:

    My father owns a company that removes oil tanks in and above ground. In New Jersey it is a state law that only a licensed certified contractor can remove or sand fill and oil tank. You really should call your local town building department to find out your towns procedure. If you get caught doing this your self you are looking at some hefty fines.

  8. Greed_2.0 Says:

    crush flat.

    Don’t spill or you will have to call waste disposal.

  9. vincent c Says:

    I think I would cut a hole in one end big enough to clean it out,then if I thought it was safe, I would cut it in half with a torch.A sawzall is probably safer but will take longer. Either way have a couple of fire extinguishers standing by and maybe a garden hose. Safety first. You might hire a welder with some experience

  10. wftxrabbit Says:

    open up both ends and the top–purge with an inert gas like argon or nitrogen–keep the purge going (which displaces the oxygen) and then you can cut it however you want to-the sludge in the bottom won’t make any difference, if you displace the O2-it can’t burn without oxygen–or if you’re a young man take a 12 lb hammer and beat it into little pieces–whatever you do just be careful–good luck

  11. sbl Says:

    I’d use an air chisel. No sparks and they cut metal very well. I’ve actually cut vehicle gas tanks with them.

  12. bilko_ca Says:

    had to cut an old propane tank in half before… I filled it with water, then used oxy-acetylene cutting torch… though, this probably isn’t your solution, as it would make a mess.

  13. Brian G Says:

    One more thing that everyone is forgetting is the type of blade you should be using. Oil is not likely to cause you a problem because like was mentioned, it does need heat to burn. However, you may produce enough heat by using a sawzall blade. When working around anything flammable it is always advisable to use brass cutting tools (chisels, blades, hammers) because brass will not spark. An air chisel with a brass bit if you have access to one would be my recommendation.

  14. George O Says:

    suck all the sludge out that you can. turn the garden hose in the top and run one out of the bottom to a drain. Do that for several hrs. When you are getting clear water out the bottom, run in an air hose, blow in fresh air. start cutting, use what ever means you have to cut.

    I would call a the oil company and have them suggest some one to do the job, and play golf that afternoon.

  15. Randy Says:

    I need to cut a 2000 gal diesel fuel tank in half. any suggestions ?


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