Heating Oil Theft – A Seasonal Risk

Toronto, ON— Once again, thieves have stolen heating oil from a Church, this time in Atholville, New Brunswick. The thieves damaged the oil tank and siphoned off some 1,000 litres of heating oil. Steve Venturini, Senior Underwriter at Ecclesiastical Insurance’s Halifax office, expressed his concern about the impact of fuel oil theft on faith communities when so many are working with shoestring budgets.

“While the theft of heating oil is a relatively new phenomenon, more and more incidents are reported every year”, he said. “In Eastern Canada, we’ve seen a number of churches targeted over the past few years, along with other institutions and businesses. In fact, the RCMP is investigating 3 other incidents that took place this past October, one of them targeting CN’s train engines”.

According to Natural Resources Canada, furnace oil prices for the week ending December 13, 2011, ended at $1.17 per litre— 20 cents per litre higher than they were last year. In addition to losing costly oil, the targets may be left with damaged tanks and oil spills which, in turn, can lead to significant clean-up expenses.

“Oil tank contents are most often accessed via unlocked filler pipes and by cutting copper oil lines, says Venturini. “Not only do the thieves make off with the oil, they also make off with the copper— another commodity whose value keeps rising”. As a result, Ecclesiastical Insurance has developed various protocols and preventive measures to help deter thieves.

  • Locks — Tanks with exposed filler pipes should have padlocks fitted to the pipe cover. Oil supply companies can supply these.
  • Valve Protectors — These should be hard-bolted to exposed fittings and valves.
  • Oil Safety Valve — Anti-Siphon Valve — These devices are designed to automatically shut off the flow of oil from a tank when the line between the valve and the oil burner is broken or severed.
  • Oil Lines — New oil lines are coated with polyethylene sheathing and are recommended for all oil line replacements. These lines should be placed in hacksaw-resistant metal tubing.
  • Fencing — Enclosures — Fences or framed enclosures with locked doors or gates, constructed of suitable wire mesh or heavy timber fabric, should cover the entire perimeter of the tank and, if possible, the top. Enclosures must be large enough to allow for full inspection of the tank.
  • Lighting — Volunteer Programs — Well-lit areas serve as important deterrents for all potential targets. For faith communities, a Watch Program whereby volunteers drive, cycle or walk around the property on a regular basis is an excellent way to keep watch over the oil tank and the property in general.
  • Interior Tanks — Interior double-walled tanks with two layers of protection are recommended over exterior tank installation. In addition to protecting against theft and vandalism, interior tanks are not subjected to external elements — for example, extreme temperatures, ice, snow, external corrosion and condensation.

About Ecclesiastical Insurance

Working with broker partners across Canada, Ecclesiastical Insurance provides customized insurance solutions to faith communities, educational institutions, retirement facilities, unique and heritage properties, cultural institutions, registered charities and nonprofit organizations, as well as select commercial enterprises. Owned by a charitable trust, Ecclesiastical is committed to protecting those who enrich the lives of others.