New Regulations for Portable Fuel Containers

Gas cans redesigned to improve safety and eliminate spillage

Gas can
Martin Diebel/Getty Images

What is a portable fuel container?

A portable fuel container (PFC) is a receptacle for holding small amounts of fuel ranging in size from 1 gallon to 5 gallons or more. They are commonly used by homeowners to store fuel for lawn mowers, string trimmers, or blowers. The EPA estimates that there are about 80 million PFCs in use in the United States.

What are the new regulations?

The EPA regulations are based on requirements started in Califormia by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) in 2000 and updated in 2007.
Since 2000, individual states have been slowly following suit, but the new EPA regulations will bring all states in line and by January 1, 2009 all new PFCs produced and sold in the United States will be compliant.
  • The regulations impose:
  • A single, self venting opening for filling and pouring with no separate vents or openings
  • A treated can body for minimal permeation of fuels
  • Automatic closure, meaning a nozzle which automatically springs to the closed position when not pouring
  • Childproof features as designated by the Children’s Gasoline Burn Prevention Act

Why are there new regulations?

There are an estimated 3.27 billion gallons of fuel dispensed by over 80 million PFCs in the United States. This results in an estimated 70, 262 gallons of spilled fuel annually.

The danger of spilled fuels comes in the form of VOCs (volatile organic compounds) that escape into the atmosphere whenever gas leaves a container.

The new regulations focus on VOCs ability to permeate through the plastic of the container and emissions released when pouring or caps are left off. VOCs are considered a greenhouse gas and their release can also contaminate ground water.

What do I do with my old gas cans?

You can keep using them if so desired.

The new regulations apply only to new containers and there are no requirements to replace old containers. However, some municipalities have exchange programs in place where you can swap your old PFCs for new, compliant ones.

The new regulations do not apply to OSHA approved metal safety containers which are mainly used in commercial applications.