Legalities

Relevant Regulations

There are different sets of regulations that apply to fuel storage in above ground tanks, below ground tanks, tanks insides a building and tanks below ground, inside a building.

The regulations, are specific on some points (will be stated as a “Must” in the regulations) and then give general guidance on best practice (referred to as “Shouldin the regulations).

The Should category will meet the best practice, which is what the relevant body (EA/HSE/DEFRA) would expect a company to do.

The tanks not only have different sets of regulations, they also have different bodies that issue regulations and monitor the tanks:

External above ground tank

Control of Pollution (Oil Storage) Regulations (hereafter called COP) which is governed by the  Environment Agency

 Below ground (buried) tank

Groundwater Protection Code: Petrol stations and other fuel dispensing facilities involving underground storage tanks which is governed by DEFRA

 Internal Tanks

Building Regulations Approved Document J which is governed by the HSE

Internal underground tanks (basement or similar, above ground style tanks in a below ground room)

These tanks fall under DEFRA and HSE control as they impact on two sets of regulations.

In addition to the specific regulations the following also apply to all oil storage facilities: 

Environmental Protection Act

Quote from COP:

“Regulation 9 states that a person with custody or control of any oil breaching the Regulations will be guilty of a criminal offence. On summary conviction in a Magistrates Court a person breaching the Regulations will be liable to a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum (currently £5,000). If the case is heard in the Crown Court, on conviction on indictment, the penalty could be an unlimited fine.”

If oil does escape and it enters the groundwater system it is classed as a criminal offence.

Although each EA/HSE/DEFRA officer has the ability to decide if a criminal prosecution is undertaken, in our experience the body will assess the installation against the regulations and what is classified as reasonably practicable.

In the case of oil storage, The EA/HSE/DEFRA will look at the sacrifice (in terms of money, time or trouble) required to avert oil entering the groundwater system.

The risk of oil entering the ground must be controlled or mitigated unless there is a gross disproportion between the costs and benefits of doing so.  It is our professional opinion that a large national/ multi-national company would be expected to meet the best practice in all cases.

Internal Tanks & Above Ground Tanks

A risk assessment should be completed on the installation by the buildings fire officer. The guidance from Approved Document J is that the fire office should look into the individual tanks risks if a fire were to occur (would it potentially block a fire exit, where is the nearest potential source of ignition etc.).

The tank itself should generally be assessed against COP as issued by The EA for external tanks.

We use the COP to assess internal tanks and will also look at potential fire risks.

Essentially the regulations etc require an annual inspection of the tanks and pipework by a competent person.

The only criteria that is offered for a competent person is in The Oil Storage Regulations, where they state “A more detailed annual check by a trained operator, eg in the OFTEC registered scheme” requirements of the OSR Scotland, such as secondary containment, which apply to the remainder of the list above.”

NOTE: All Fuel Storage Solutions Limited engineers are OFTEC OFT600a (Non-Domestic Oil Tank Installations) trained.

 Direct quotation from The Oil Storage Regulations:

“A more detailed annual check by a trained operator, eg in the OFTEC registered scheme, is also recommended to ensure there is no corrosion, mechanical damage or oil leaks

OFTEC Technical Note TI/134 offers advice on installing oil supply pipes underground. Regulation 4(3)(b)(iii) requires that underground pipes must have adequate facilities for detecting leaks, such as alarms and should meet with EC leak detection standard EN 13160-1 to 7. Inspections for leaks and of leak detection devices should be carried out annually and by a qualified person.

Technical advice on constructing installations is also available from companies supplying equipment. It is recommended that OFTEC accredited companies are used to install tanks, deliver oil and to carry out inspections at regular intervals.

Routine maintenance of the primary and secondary containment systems to prevent any risk of water pollution is recommended to ensure the standards proposed in the Regulations are met at all times, as well as a more detailed annual inspection and service. ”

Underground Tanks

Direct quote from “Groundwater Protection Code: Petrol stations and other fuel dispensing facilities involving underground storage tanks”:

The Groundwater Regulations 1998 came fully into force on 1 April 1999 and completed the transposition of the EC Groundwater Directive(12) into United Kingdom law. The Regulations supplement the provisions of the Water Resources Act 1991. Guidance on the implementation of the Regulations has been issued by DEFRA.

The purpose of the Regulations is to protect groundwater from pollution by certain listed substances. These substances are defined in Lists I and II of the Directive and the Groundwater Regulations 1998. For List I substances, which include mineral oils and hydrocarbons, measures should be taken to prevent their introduction to groundwater.

In the UK it is an offence to allow List I substances to enter groundwater.”

In order to demonstrate that the regulations are being followed for an underground installation the following need to happen (again direct quote):

“Key factors in demonstrating that the code is being followed during the commissioning, operation and/or decommissioning of UST facilities are:

  • A Risk Assessment process should be used to identify site specific risks and to indicate the appropriate engineering and operational controls required to protect groundwater.
  • The Engineering Measures identified by the risk assessment should be implemented as soon as reasonably possible.
  • Management Systems and Controls should be in place, including the keeping of records regarding site operation, and including leak detection and environmental monitoring.
  • Emergency Plans and Procedures must be in place, including an appropriate Pollution Incident Response Plan which should form part of the environmental management system.”

As part of the controls for underground tanks, the lines must be tested every 5 years and should be tested every two years. Best practice is an annual test.

Other Relevant Regulations

Oil / Water Separator (Interceptor):

A separator acts as a crucial part of the oil storage system, ensuring any spill, from a tanker or pipeline, out of the bund would not enter the groundwater system.

Such an interceptor should be inspected every 6 months and emptied with a full internal inspection every 5 years.

Oil Spill Kits / Training

Someone on site should be trained in basic oil spill response at all times and suitable oil spill kits should be available.  The basic training needs to be given to personnel who cover either engineering/maintenance or security, so that in the event of a spill there will be someone on shift who knows what to do.

Legal Requirements for Tanks and Pipe-Work

Fuel Storage Tanks and Lines/Interceptors

Since 2001, new regulations have gradually been coming into force for above and below ground petrol diesel and oil storage tanks. To encourage people to comply with the regulations it is now a criminal offence for hydrocarbon based liquid to be allowed to enter the watercourse. This effectively means that if a tank or pipe leaks, and petrol or oil enters the watercourse, the Environment Agency (“EA”) and/or DEFRA can criminally prosecute. They will take action against the individual responsible for the fuel storage as well as the offending company’s Managing Director. If successful, such a prosecution could result in a prison sentence and/or unlimited fine!

Compliance with Regulations

Above Ground Tanks

Above Ground Tanks (“AST”) are covered by the Control of Pollution (Oil Storage) (England) Regulations 2001. These regulations became effective in 2001 but were introduced in three stages dependent on the distance of the fuel storage facility from a watercourse. In order to comply with the regulations the site must:

  1. Have an annual inspection performed by an OFTEC qualified engineer.
  2. Have all underground lines integrity tested.

Underground Tanks

Underground tanks are covered by the “Groundwater Protection Code: Petrol stations and other fuel dispensing facilities involving underground storage tanks”. This code has been applicable to underground tanks since November 2002. In order to comply with the code the site must:

  1. Have an annual integrity test performed on the tank and lines.
  2. Have an environmental risk assessment taken of the fuel installation initially and then repeated whenever there is a change on site.

Tanks housed within a building

Tanks housed within buildings are covered by the “Building Regulations 2000, Combustion appliances and fuel storage systems”. These regulations have been applicable to internal tanks since 2000. Whilst there are no specific requirements, the EA/DEFRA will prosecute if oil is not stored to the standards outlined in the Control of Pollution Regulations (see above).