Open-access content Monday 10th January 2011 — updated 1.53pm, Tuesday 5th May 2020
Changes to oil storage regulations in Scotland make it vital that you contain any oil or fuel spills. The fallout is increasingly, financial, as well as environmental
by Tony Soper
13 January 2011
While disasters on the scale of the Gulf of Mexico are mercifully rare, oil and fuel pollution is unfortunately a major issue across the world - and this country is no exception. Incidents of oil and fuel pollution are so frequent in fact that, taken collectively, they are two of the most common pollutants contaminating UK rivers, lakes and seas.
What's more, they can cause immense damage to aquatic environments. When oil is spilt into a watercourse, either directly or via a surface water drainage system, the harm done to plants and animals is often widespread and devastating.
Even if they pass apparently harmlessly into the sewerage network, oil or fuel can still cause havoc in sewage treatment works.
Given these scenarios, it's no surprise to hear that oil storage regulations in Scotland have recently been updated and, in the process, made far more stringent.
Changes to The Water Environment (Oil Storage) (Scotland) Regulations were introduced in three stages, starting in 2006. The final instalment came into force ?on 1 April 2010.
Under this instalment, all new and existing commercial and agricultural oil storage tank installations larger than 200 litres must have secondary containment (eg, a bund or drip tray). Any valves, pipes or other ancillary equipment must also be placed within the secondary containment to contain drips and spillages.
Business owners in Scotland who fail to store their fuel and oil in bunded, above-ground tanks could be liable for fines of up to £40,000.
The regulations apply to any kind of oil, including petrol, diesel, kerosene, mineral oil, heating oil, lubricating oil, waste oil, vegetable and plant oil.
Typical examples of the types of locations that will be affected by the regulation update include factories, public sector buildings, retail, offices, farms, motor and transport garages.
In terms of domestic buildings, all tanks larger than 2,500 litres serving Scottish homes have to be bunded. Any tank less than 2,500 litres in this sector is covered by The Building Regulations (Scotland) 2004, which require a risk assessment to determine the need for secondary containment.
We understand that the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) has stated its intent to investigate and take action wherever pollution has occurred, with priority ascribed to sites that have caused water pollution and/or where there is a serious potential for pollution, for example, if the site is less than 10m from surface waters or less than 50m from a well or borehole.
Scottish v English law
There are similar regulations in England, namely the Control of Pollution (Oil Storage) (England) Regulations 2001 (details of which can be found on the Environment Agency website). However, the requirements of the regulations in Scotland differ slightly from those in England. For example:
? Regulations in Scotland apply to storage of waste oil, whereas the storage of waste mineral oils is exempt under English regulations because it is covered by The Waste Management Licensing Regulations 1994.
? Regulations in Scotland apply to storage of oil in buildings while the English regulations exempt the storage of oil within a building
? Regulations in Scotland require that if oil is stored in a portable container of less than 200 litres, the container must be of sufficient strength and structural integrity that it doesn't leak in ordinary use. There is no similar requirement in the English regulations
? Regulations in Scotland exempt oil stored in accordance with a Part A permit under the Pollution Prevention and Control (PPC) Regulations 2000, or the Environmental Protection (Prescribed Processes and Substances) Regulations 1991. Premises used as an oil distribution depot for the onward distribution of oil to other places are also exempt under Scottish regulations. The English regulations exempt storage of oil at premises used for refining oil or for the onward distribution of oil to other places.
Information about the changes to the regulations and other differences between Scotland and England can be found on the SEPA website: www.sepa.org.uk/water/water_regulation/regimes/pollution_control/oil_storage.aspx
It's perhaps no surprise that, well before the new regulations came into force, many facilities in Scotland were already taking a bunded-only approach to new and replacement installations. It future-proofed their installations and avoided any possibility that the owner of the building could be held liable for single-skin tanks that might be installed in error.
There are already local authorities that specify all tanks must be bunded - if in doubt, check with your own authority.
In 2008, around 300 gallons of diesel fuel which leaked from the delivery hose serving an unbunded diesel fuel tank in Aberdeenshire ended up in a nearby river. It caused pollution of a local river and the death of a number of invertebrates. The tank owner was fined £2,000 and also had to pay the bill for the clean-up costs. Failure to provide adequate bunding for the tank and to carry out appropriate maintenance on it resulted in serious pollution of the river - and considerable financial cost to the owner. Source: SEPA
Tony Soper is Kingspan Environmental's GB sales director