14th April 2014
The government wants to allow onshore oil exploration sites to store up to 200 tonnes of crude oil for up to six months without applying for an environmental permit.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) is consulting on a proposal to remove these sites from the Environmental Permitting Regulations (EPR). Currently, the loading, unloading, handling, storage or treatment of crude oil is covered by a paragraph in Schedule 1 of the EPR.
The consultation argues that for many years the Environment Agency (EA) has taken the position that the paragraph does not apply to exploration sites because they were of “limited duration” and the volume of oil is low, compared to that extracted during the production life of the well.
DEFRA argues that the “regulatory burden” of applying for a permit would be “disproportionate to the environmental risk”. It proposes regularising the EA’s position by adding an exception to the paragraph for “activities for which a petroleum exploration and development licence has been issued by the Minister pursuant to the Petroleum Act 1998 and the capacity of crude oil storage does not exceed 200 tonnes and the duration of oil storage does not exceed 6 months”.
It adds that other regulatory controls would still apply. Exploration sites would continue to need a Petroleum Exploration and Development Licence. Sites which stored more than 200 tonnes of crude oil would continue to be covered by the Control of Major Accident Hazard (COMAH) Regulations 1999 and the Control of Pollution (Oil Storage) Regulations 2001.
DEFRA’s consultation ends on June 2nd 2014