The arrival of The Control of Pollution (Oil Storage) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2010 represent the most significant change in oil storage regulations in the province for a generation. Coming into effect on 20 March 2011 and affecting both new and existing oil storage installations, they are applicable to the storage of all kinds of oil including agricultural fuel oil, biodiesel, diesel, gas oil, bioheating oil, heating oil, kerosene, lubricants, oil based solvents, mineral oil, paraffin, plant oil, vegetable oil and waste oils.
The new Regulations are applicable to all internal and external above ground storage installations with an installed capacity greater than 200 litres at:
- Commercial premises e.g. shops, garages, offices etc.
- Industrial premises e.g. factories, quarries, workshops etc.
- Institutional premises e.g. civic buildings, hospitals, police stations, multi-residential dwellings, blocks of flats, apartments etc.
- Domestic premises with an installed capacity greater than 3,500 litres
- Waste oil storage and collection facilities e.g. civic amenity sites
- Companies who refine and distribute oil and who are not regulated by The Control of Major Accident Hazards (Northern Ireland) Regulations 2000, storing 2,500 tonnes of oil or more.
Single family dwellings with an installed capacity of 3,500 litres or less are not affected by the Regulations, but instead are subject to Building Regulations in the province. Similarly, whilst agricultural installations do not fall within the remit of the legislation, they are covered by The Control of Pollution (Silage, Slurry and Fuel Oil) (Northern Ireland) Regulations 2003.
The scope of the new Regulations at affected installations extends to:
- Fixed storage tanks
- Intermediate bulk containers (IBCs)
- Bowsers and other similar, mobile storage / dispensing tanks
For the first time in Northern Ireland, the Regulations establish minimum legal requirements for the storage of oil at affected premises and installations. Usefully they bring the province largely into line with existing regulations elsewhere in the United Kingdom and in mainland Europe.
Key requirements of the new regulations in Northern Ireland include:
- Tanks, drums and any other storage containers must be strong enough to store oil without bursting.
- Oil storage containers should be positioned to minimise the risk of vehicular impact
- A secondary containment system (e.g. bund) should be incorporated within the installation to contain any oil spilt from the primary storage container, ancillary equipment or pipework.
- The secondary containment system must be able to store a minimum of 110% of the primary storage container. Where more than one container is stored, the system must be able to contain either 110% of the capacity of the largest storage container of 25% of the aggregate total - whichever is the greater.
- The base and walls of any bund must be impermeable to oil e.g. they must be able to contain oil for a minimum of 72 hours. Additionally, the bund must not be permeated by any pipe or valve, capable of draining the storage system.
- Aboveground pipework must be properly supported and underground pipework must be protected from physical and chemical damage and have adequate leakage protection in place.
In practice, the outworking of the new requirements will be the installation of pre-fabricated bunded oil tanks and the increased use of sump pallets at many oil storage installations in the province.
In England and Scotland, comparable regulations were phased in over a number of years. It is therefore unsurprising to find the same approach has been taken in Northern Ireland. The Regulations, which apply to both new and existing oil storage installations, will be implemented in three distinct stages:
- All new oil storage facilities must comply by 20 September 2011
- Existing oil storage facilities within 10 metres of a waterway or within 50 metres of a well, borehole or spring must comply by 20 March 2013.
- All remaining oil storage facilities should comply by 31 December 2015.
In 2009, oil represented approximately 14% of substantiated pollution incidents investigated by the Northern Ireland Environment Agency. Whilst there has been a welcome, downward trend in the number of oil related pollution incidents in the province; the number appears to have levelled off at c.220 incidents per annum during recent years. The Agency hopes the introduction of new Regulations will further reduce the number and extent of oil related pollution incidents in the province.
Further information on the new Regulations is available from the Northern Ireland Environment Agency.
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