Managing potentially serious oil leaks and pollution

Published 10th February 2023

Annual inspections are a legal requirement

If a tank or pipeline that carries oil, leaks and allows oil to enter the groundwater system it is deemed a criminal offence. If the site cannot prove that the tanks / pipelines have been regularly pressure tested and checked by a competent person recognised by the Environment Agency (“EA”) or Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (“SEPA”), they may prosecute the offending company.

In order to comply with EA, SEPA, DEFRA and HSE regulations, oil tanks and pipelines must have an annual inspection by a company with a recognised accreditation.

Fuel Storage Solutions – OFTEC Approved

Fuel Storage Solutions engineers are OFTEC (oil industry equivalent of GasSafe) OFT600a (Non-Domestic Oil Tank Installations) approved technicians. This is the ONLY qualification that The Environment Agency recognises.

Case Study: High Street Banking Group

The background

Working with this client for many years we inspect and maintain the sites in this case study, performing annual pressure tests/checks on tanks, pipework and pumping systems to ensure that they are tight and leak free.

The previous service provider maintained the generators on the sites and performed complimentary inspections on the oil tanks and pumps as part of generator servicing. A new FM company took over the contract and we were their nominated specialist.

Their customer was looking into dispensing with the specialist inspections provided by FSS and opting for the complimentary inspections to reduce costs. Due to our relationship with new FM company and our recognised expertise we were asked to do a first inspection on all the sites before a decision was made.

Our inspection uncovered a leaking pipeline

On one of the very first sites we inspected we found a pipeline with several large holes in a line taking fuel from an underground tank into the generator’s day tank (please see attached pictures of the line immediately after it was removed). The site had been having difficulty getting fuel from the underground tank to the day tank.

Oil Pollution - pipe with holes in 1

The company that maintained the generators had supplied and fitted a new transfer pump system, believing that to be the cause of the problem. When the new pump set lost its prime they returned to site and advised the pump set was not suitable and supplied and fitted (at full cost) a second pump set.

They had failed to identify that the line was leaking (as it had not been pressure tested) and that therefore, the pumps were sucking air instead of oil, meaning that oil was escaping underground!

Remedial action by FSS

This site is in Scotland and SEPA were involved because a significant amount of oil had been lost to ground. Initially SEPA were seeking to prosecute the bank, but after the FSS team met SEPA on site with our client, we identified and agreed immediate action to clean up all the spilt oil and bio-remediate the area. The costs of this operation were very high, but an immediate proactive response from our client along with our team conducting all works on site immediately, avoided any further action being taken by SEPA who were satisfied with a successful outcome.

This outcome involved the removal of the failed pipes and their replacement with our patented APIApipe integrally bunded pipes (pipe in pipe) along with a full environmental clean-up.

What to do if you suspect a leak

We help hundreds of businesses with the management of tanks and pipework. And you can call on us if your suspect any leakage potential or problems.  We also offer a 24 hour Emergency Response Service for your peace of mind: