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Every few years an environmental tragedy involving an oil spill seems to hit the news. We’re presented with ghastly images of large slicks of oil destroying the landscape, enveloping helpless animals and costing hundreds of millions of pounds to clean up. Added to this, oil spills can also endanger public health, impact drinking water and disrupt the economy due to lost revenue and costly insurance premiums.

 

However, transporting and using oil remains a fundamental part of the way our society works for the foreseeable future. It’s for this reason that spill prevention control and counter measures (SPCC) have been enshrined in law around the world. In the US, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has laid down measures to deal with such problems, following devastating spills such as the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. It is clear that spill prevention is significantly more successful than the costly and difficult clean up operations that are necessary after spills occur.                                                                                                                                                                   

 

 

Every few years an environmental tragedy involving an oil spill seems to be on the news.


Why is SPCC Important?


We're presented with ghastly images of large slicks of oil which are destroying the landscape, enveloping helpless animals and costing hundreds of millions of pounds to clean up. Added to this, oil spills can also endanger public health, impact drinking water and disrupt the economy due to lost revenue and costly insurance premiums.


However, transporting and using oil remains a fundamental part of the way our society works for the foreseeable future.


It's for this reason that spill prevention control and counter measures (SPCC) have been enshrined in law around the world.


In the US, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has laid down measures to deal with such problems, following devastating spills such as the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.


It is clea that spill prevention is significantly more successful than the costly and difficult clean up operations that are necessary after spills occur.


What is an SPCC Plan?


The SPCC aim to prevent spills and slicks specifically in coastal areas where they cause the most damage. They ensure that oil storage capacity is limited and that those storing or moving large amounts of oil are regulated. The SPCC regulations apply to any kind of oil, including, but not limited to, petroleum, fats, vegetable oils, greases and plenty more.


Although environmental agencies around the world wish to prevent all oil spills, it also recognises that spills can still happen regardless. To ensure  a quick response to spills, the SPCC rule is there to help facilities prevent spills into navigatable waters and shorelines.


An SPCC plan is a document which conveys exactly what your facility will do if an oil spill does occur, showing that you are prepared for such an incident.


What Must an SPCC Plan Include?


Each SPCC plan is unique to its facility, but all plans must include the following elements:

  • Oil handling operations at the facility
  • Spill prevention tactics
  • Discharge or drainage controls
  • Personnel, equipment, and resources at the facility used to prevent oil spills.

You will also need to describe basic facility information (such as the owner, location, proximity to water) as well as information about the oil and petroleum you store.


To prepare for an oil discharge, you must also include emergency information in your SPCC plan, including contact numbers for everyone who must be contacted in the event of a spill and also provide information on how to act in the event of a spill. Your facility must prevent spills and describe the procedures used to avoid discharges: tank containment, locking mechanisms, site security, training, etc.


Finally, you must review your SPCC plan reguarly and conduct training at least once a year to ensure that all staff members who handle oil or petroleum at your facilty know how to do so properly and how to respond to a spillage.

 

Who the SPCC Regulations Apply To


Facilities that are covered by the regulations include offshore platforms and facilities, refineries, treatment facilities, vehicles, pipelines and oil storage plants. Whilst there is an amount of accepted discharge, this is strictly monitored and those found to be in breech of the rules very severely punished. Periodical inspections are carried out to ensure companies are complying with the industry standards.


Facilities are obliged to a reasonable degree to prevent spillages by using suitable equipment for containing and transporting oil as well as implementing containment measures if problems arise. They need to demonstrate that they can contain small spillages and prevent contamination. Companies who meet the criteria for inspection need to prepare and implement an SPCC plan that is signed off by the EPA. They also need to be aware of the correct procedures should a spill occur. More information about the responsibilities of oil companies and transportation firms can be found on the Environmental Protection Agency’s website.


We all have an obligation to protect the environment around us and this particular applies to corporations involved in the transport of potentially hazardous substances. As we’ve mentioned above, we have all seen the devastation oil can cause if spillages occur or are not sufficiently contained.


Whatever you may think about the reliance on fossil fuels such as oil, the reality remains that it is currently a major foundation of global industry and economy, and will be for many years yet. All the while this is the case, we need to ensure that we drill, move and store oil as carefully as possible. The SPCC regulations help this to happen around the world.



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