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Competent Authority guidance on heavy fuel oil (HFO)

This guidance is for operators who have heavy fuel oil (HFO) on site. It refers solely to changes as a result of the introduction of HFO into named substance ’petroleum products‘ mid-February 2014.

The Heavy Fuel Oil (Amendment) Regulations 2014 implement Article 30 of Council Directive 2012/18/EU (’Seveso III‘) by amending the Control of Major Accident Hazards Regulations 1999 (COMAH).

Other substances will be introduced into ’petroleum products‘ named substance in 2015 when the remainder of Seveso III is fully implemented. This will include alternative fuels. Further advice and guidance will be issued for these in due course.

What does the change mean?

Changing HFO to a named substance (’petroleum products‘) increases the inventory that must be present on site before the requirements of COMAH apply (becoming 2500 tonnes for lower-tier sites and 25,000 tonnes for top-tier sites).

This is a relaxation of the previous regulatory requirements and is being introduced from 20 February 2014 ahead of implementation of the rest of Seveso III due in June 2015. It is important to note these new requirements for HFO threshold inventories will not change again at that time.

The change also affects the ‘controlled quantity’ for hazardous substance consent required under planning law. It raises the controlled quantity at which consent for HFOs is required from 100 to 2,500 tonnes.

Where in relation to Heavy Fuel Oils existing consents are no longer required as a result of this change, they will become obsolete in relation to that substance. However, if consent for HFOs is still required, existing consents for that substance will be unaffected by the change and will continue to have effect. This could be where those consents already cover HFOs in quantities at or above the new threshold on their own or with other substances under the addition rule, either expressly or under the generic ‘Dangerous for the environment’ category. 

Enquiries on hazardous substance consent should be directed to the hazardous substances authority which will usually be the local authority. Planning guidance on hazardous substances for England will be published in its final form in early 2014 at the National Planning Practice Guidance site.

Will this affect enforcement?

Until the change for HFO is implemented, the Competent Authority (CA) will take its normal risk-based approach to enforcement of COMAH in respect of HFO. It will expect that proportionate controls are applied to the control of risk from HFO by operators.

The CA will not proactively enforce COMAH requirements between now and early 2014 at those sites with less than 2,500 tonnes of HFO that will not be subject to the COMAH regime when it is amended in early 2014. Operators do not need to send a notification to the CA.

What do dutyholders need to do?

Sites with less than 25,000t of HFO that will be subject to COMAH lower-tier requirements after early 2014 should send a notification to the CA as soon as practicable and prepare a new (or revised) Major Accident Prevention Policy (MAPP) by 28 February 2014.

Sites that are currently lower tier because of substances other than HFO, and where previously no account has been taken of the presence of HFO, or which are below lower tier for the same reason, and will become top tier because of HFO after February 2014, should send a notification to the CA as soon as practicable, submit a safety report to the CA by 31 August 2014 and prepare an on-site emergency plan by the same date.

Sites that are currently top tier (because of substances other than HFO) should submit an update to their existing safety report to cover HFO by 31 August 2014 and update their on-site emergency plan by the same date. They should then incorporate the update into their full safety report at the next scheduled 5-year review.

Operators will need to take into account, where appropriate, substances other than HFO and the operation of the aggregation rule when deciding whether COMAH will apply to their sites after February 2014.

Note: Further information on the legal status of guidance is available.

2015-06-08