A GOVERNMENT agency wants permission to store more hazardous petroleum products at an oil fuel depot serving HM Naval Base Clyde.

The Oil and Pipelines Agency (OPA) wants to make use of two underground tanks to store additional  petroleum products, without exceeding the existing consented tonnage for the site, at HM Oil Fuel Depot in Garelochhead.

The OPA has applied to Argyll and Bute Council for 'hazardous substance consent', with a decision expected by the end of May.

The site currently has consent for the storage of up to 35,365 tonnes of petroleum products. The application states that even if permission for storage of the additional products is granted, the total amount of fuel stored at the whole site will still not exceed that upper limit.

It also says the substances – which are not described in detail – would be present on the site for storage only.

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In an application form published in the council’s planning portal, planning agent Rhian Lees of Cardiff-based consultancy firm RPS says: “Fuel comes into the site from a ship tanker and is transferred from the ship via pipeline. Typically, fuel is transferred off site via the same pipeline.

“However, there is a section of the pipeline that goes to a road loading area where a road tanker can be filled. A typical load into OPA-owned tankers is 8,800 litres, and one tanker is filled on a daily basis.

“A commercial load is 28,000 litres, and the typical demand for a commercial load can be as little as 12 tankers per year, [or] up to 30 tankers per month.”

The site, which was built in the mid-1950s, was originally operated by the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company and then by BP, before the Ministry of Defence took over control of the facility in 1981.

It originally comprised an upper and lower tank farm, but the upper tank farm was decommissioned in 1996 and no longer forms part of the depot’s estate.

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Of the 16 semi-buried fuel storage tanks on the lower tank farm, only two currently remain in use.

Ms Lees added: “In addition to the COMAH (Control of Major Accident Hazards) regulation of the site, the OPA is committed to continually improving the site in accordance with good industry practice, industry standards and evolving legislation.

“Improvements are being made to the organisation as a whole, which impacts all six depots, as well as site-specific improvements to allow for continued safe operations.

“These include safety instrumented systems to provide independent tank-side overfill protection, a containment project to ensure tank bunds are in operational compliance and follow the Chemical and Downstream Oil Industries Forum environmental risk process, a rolling tank and pipeline inspection programme which include re-lining tanks and rectifying defects.”

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The Oil and Pipelines Agency is responsible for operating six oil fuel depots around the UK.

Three – at Garelochhead, Gosport and Thanckes – support the Royal Navy bases at Faslane, Portsmouth and Devonport respectively, while the other three provide bulk storage and regional support to visiting Royal Navy and NATO vessels and to the tankers of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary.

The latter three are all located in Scotland – at Campbeltown, at Loch Ewe in Wester Ross, and in Loch Striven, north of Rothesay.

The OPA also operates the underground petroleum storage depot at Plumley in Cheshire.

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