Person filling up a portable fuel container

Safety Tips When Using Portable Fuel Containers

It’s not just our cars, commercial vehicles and motorbikes that run on fuel.

By Shell on Dec. 06, 2020

Our lawnmowers, recreational two- and four-wheelers, watercraft and other powered machines all need a periodic top-up, too. That’s where portable fuel containers come into play, allowing you to store, transport and then dispense fuel away from your local service station.

But fuel containers are also inherently dangerous – use them the wrong way and you’re potentially putting your safety and those around you in jeopardy. Here’s what you need to know to do it safely.

Picking the right portable fuel container

Petrol is classified as a highly flammable, dangerous substance, so it can’t just be transported in any old container. It’s the same story for diesel. While not officially classified as highly flammable, it’s still a combustible, dangerous substance that requires appropriate storage.

If you’re buying a new container, look for markings that show it’s manufactured to Australian Standard ASNZS:2906. If it conforms to this standard for portable fuel containers up to 25L, you can be confident it’s essentially safe.

Pulling an old fuel can out of the shed? It should also conform to this standard and you should check its condition carefully. If it has rust, cracks, a leaking cap or other damage, get a new one.

Filling it up

There are rules to follow when refuelling your car at your servo – no smoking, turn off your mobile phone, no refuelling by people under 16 years of age – and there are more again when it comes to filling a fuel container.

First, you can only use approved containers up to 25L. Second, you must place it firmly on the ground before filling – no filling from your boot, the tray of your ute or trailer.

Why? A fuel container is vulnerable to ignition sources when being filled and even a small static discharge can start a fire.

When removing the lid or cap, point it away from your face and body and do it slowly to release any vapours that might have built up. When filling, keep one hand on the container. Make sure the dispenser nozzle is also in contact with the can to reduce static build-up and discharge. When you’ve finished, make sure the lid or cap is tightly reattached.

Transporting it

Carrying a fuel container in your vehicle’s cabin or boot is bad news because the fumes can affect the occupants. If you have no other way to do it, keep the trip short, the can secured in its upright position and the cabin well ventilated.

A safer way is to carry the container in the back of a ute, in a trailer or on a roof rack – well secured and well away from ignition sources or potential impact zones (check your state regulations for guidance). Even better, and especially if you have long-haul fuel-carrying in mind, purchase dedicated container holders.


Viva Energy Australia Pty Ltd (“Viva Energy”) has compiled the above article for your general information and to use as a general reference. Whilst all reasonable care has been taken by Viva Energy in compiling this article, Viva Energy does not warrant or represent that the information in the article is free from errors or omissions or is suitable for your intended use.

Where information, recommendations, opinions or ideas have been sourced from third parties external to Viva Energy (Third Party Information), Viva Energy cannot be certain that the Third Party Information is accurate, current or complete, nor should a mention of any business, product, service or website of a third party be taken as a recommendation, approval or endorsement of, or warranty or claim regarding, that business, product, service or website.