Legislation, Compliance and Best Practice

The Control of Pollution (Oil Storage) (England) Regulations 2001

More than 5,000 oil incidents are reported every year. During 2000, one-sixth of all pollution incidents affecting the environment involved oil. Most incidents were caused by oil leaking from tanks either during storage or delivery.

The regulations state the need for oil stores (with the exception of waste oil stores) to provide a secondary containment facility.

Anyone storing 200 litres of oil or more above ground at a commercial, industrial or institutional site, or more than 3,500 litres at a domestic site will be affected by these regulations. They cover factories, shops, offices, hotels, schools, public sector buildings and hospitals. These regulations apply only in England.

Any oil stores built since the 1st March 2002 must comply. Sites close to watercourses (10m) or bore holes (50m) are classed as higher risk and should have been in compliance as of 1st September 2003. All remaining stores had until 1st September 2005 to introduce satisfactory secondary containment.

Water Environment (Oil Storage) Scotland Regulations 2006

The requirements of the Regulations in Scotland differ slightly from those in England, the following are the key differences:

  • Regulations in Scotland apply to domestic oil storage above 2500 litres. The Oil Storage Regulations England apply to domestic oil storage with over 3500 litre capacity.
  • Regulations in Scotland apply to storage of waste oil. The storage of waste mineral oils is exempt under the Oil Storage Regulations England as their storage is covered by the Waste Management Licensing regulations 1994.
  • Regulations in Scotland apply to storage of oil in buildings. The Oil Storage Regulations England exempt the storage of oil within a building.
  • Regulations in Scotland exempt oil stored in accordance with a Part A authorisation / permit under the Pollution Prevention and Control (PPC) Regulations 2000, or the Environmental Protection (Prescribed Processes and Substances) Regulations 1991 and premises used as an oil distribution depot for the onward distribution of oil to other places. The Oil Storage Regulations England exempt storage of oil at premises used for refining oil or for the onward distribution of oil to other places.
  • If you store oil for agricultural use on a farm in Scotland, it is covered by the new oil storage regulations. If you store agricultural fuel oil in England, Wales or Northern Ireland, above a certain volume, there are separate regulations governing how it must be stored – Silage, Slurry and Agricultural Fuel Oil Regulations in England and Wales, Silage, Slurry and Agricultural Fuel Oil Storage Regulations in Northern Ireland.
  • There is a requirement in the Scottish Oil Storage Regulations that where oil is stored in a portable container of <200 litres the container must be of sufficient strength and structural integrity that it doesn’t leak in its ordinary use. There is no similar requirement in the English regulations.


Sump requirements:

You must use oil containers that are strong enough and that are unlikely to burst or leak during ordinary use. In Scotland this is the only requirement for portable oil containers with a capacity less than 200 litres.

You must store containers within a drip tray, bund or any other suitable secondary containment system (SCS). This will contain any oil that escapes from its container.

For oil tanks, intermediate bulk containers and mobile bowsers, your SCS must be able to hold:

  • at least 110% of the volume of any single container in the storage area, or
  • if there is more than one container, at least 110% of the largest container’s storage volume, or at least 25% of their total volume (whichever is greater).

For drum storage your drip tray must be able to hold at least 25% of the total storage capacity of the drums.

Position the SCS to minimise the risk of damage, eg from vehicles.

You must ensure that the base and walls of your bunds are impermeable to water and oil. The base and walls must not be penetrated by any valve, pipe or opening that is used for draining the system.

If any fill pipe or draw-off pipe goes through the base or walls, you must seal the junction of the pipe with the base or walls to prevent oil escaping from the system.

You must locate within the SCS all valves, filters, sight gauges, vent pipes and other equipment, other than fill pipes or draw-off pipes or pumps.

Where a fill pipe is not within the SCS, you must use a drip tray to catch any oil spilled when the container is being filled. You should make sure this drip tray is clean and empty before each delivery.


Wales and N Ireland now have their own OSR, with the latest being the Water Resources (Control of Pollution)(Oil Storage) Wales Regulations 2016, which came into force 15th march 2016 and which both follow in general the level of protection afforded by the Scotland regulations.


Water Resources Act 1991

The main Water Pollution offence is Section 85 of the WRA.

Basic outline Introduced the concept of “The Polluter Pays Principle” – Discharge consents are required by the Environment Agency from companies who, ‘discharge sewage or trade effluent directly into surface water, such as rivers, streams, canals, groundwater or the sea,’. Consents are set and enforced on an individual basis with regard to quality of the water source and the surrounding catchment.
Section 85 of the WRA is concerned with the offence of polluting controlled water. The purpose is to impose criminal liability on those who pollute natural water resources. The main offence states that it is an offence to cause or knowingly permit poisonous, noxious, or polluting matter or any solid waste to enter any controlled waters. Further offences, for example, a breach of conditions in a discharge consent, are also introduced by s.85.

This is a strict liability offence; intention or negligence by the defendant is not required for the offence to be committed, as illustrated by the word ‘cause’. The penalties for contravention of s. 85, range from a term of imprisonment not exceeding 3 months or a fine not exceeding £20,000 or both. Infringements that are more serious can carry penalties of imprisonment not exceeding two years, an unlimited fine, or both.

Protection of Groundwater Regulations 1998

These add to the consent regulations introduced in 1991 and provide a consolidated system of environmental permitting and the latest versions are the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2010 and associated amendments, which introduced a single ‘environmental permitting’ system in England and Wales.

The 2010 regulations now incorporate a system for permitting:
• Waste operations, mining waste operations, mobile plant and installations
• Water discharges (previously Water Resources Act 1991).
• Groundwater discharges (previously Groundwater (England and Wales) Regulations 2009).

Environmental Protection (Duty of Care ) Regulations 1991

This act exists to ensure responsibility is taken by the producers of waste for managing their waste and avoiding harm to human health or environment.
The act aims to reduce or eradicate harmful acts of waste crime such as fly tipping. The act encourages householders to work with their local council to combat fly-tipping and other illegal waste dumping.
The Duty of Care incorporates a responsibility on anyone who produces, imports, carries, keeps, treats or disposes of controlled waste to ensure it is only ever transferred to someone who is authorised to receive it. This is aimed to eradicate the problem of fly tippers posing as authorised waste disposal teams.
As far as we are concerned it covers disposal of material such as used sorbents.

Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002

DSEAR (The Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations of 2002) is the United Kingdom’s implementation of the European Union-wide ATEX directive.
The intention of the Regulation is to reduce the risk of a fatality or serious injury resulting from a “dangerous substance” igniting and potentially exploding. Examples of a “dangerous substance” as defined by DSEAR include sawdust, ethanol vapours, and hydrogen gas. The regulation is enforceable by the HSE or local authorities.
In working areas, particularly Drum Storage units, where dangerous substances are stored, it covers the use and installation of Electrical Equipment in Hazardous Areas – lighting and heating for example.