Buncefield blast leads to tighter fuel storage regs

Large oil and fuel storage sites will need to improve their safety standards to protect the public and environment following an investigation into the lapses that led to the Buncefield disaster.

The new policy has been drawn up by the Competent Authority for the Control of Major Accident Hazards – a cumbersome title for a coterie of experts from the Environment Agency, Health & Safety Executive and Scottish Environment Protection Agency.

Operators of all large scale depots will have their safety protocols assessed and sites inspected and failure to meet the new standards will result in enforcement action.

The new COMAH containment policy affects all large oil and fuel installations across Britain and follows a three month public consultation that received input from industry, the general public and other interested parties.

Environment Agency head of industry regulation, Dr Martin Bigg, said: “This containment policy clarifies and strengthens the requirements for primary containment, such as alarms and emergency shut down systems, to prevent spillages from storage tanks.

“It also requires improvements to secondary and tertiary containment systems, such as bunds around tanks, to reduce the consequences of any spills that might occur.

“The upgraded standards will apply immediately to any new sites, so they comply with best practice. We will review each of the existing sites against this policy and work with the operators to establish appropriate improvement plans” Dr Bigg said.

The policy sets new standards for each installation according to risk – taking into account the type of fuel and infrastructure on site, as well as proximity to surrounding communities and the environment.

As might be expected, the highest standards will be expected of installations where the risks to people and environment are greatest.

Sam Bond

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