Why Should I Provide Fencing for My Oil Storage Facility?

Why are some bulk oil storage facilities fully fenced, and some not? This is a question many of our petroleum clients ask us. The simple answer: 

Facilities that are not fenced have not been inspected by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)…yet. Once inspected, the EPA will likely require that the facility be fenced within a year. Depending on the size of the facility, fencing costs can range between $10,000 and $100,000. The EPA states that the purpose of the fencing is to “secure and control access to areas where a discharge to navigable waters or adjoining shorelines may originate.� 

There could be some relief in the future… In December 2008, the EPA amended the Spill Prevention, Control & Countermeasure (SPCC) Rules (40 CFR, Part 112) and specifically Section 112.7(g) Security, which allows an owner or operator of a bulk oil facility to tailor their security measures to the facility’s specific characteristics and location. The amended rule, which replaces the more prescriptive fencing and other security requirements, reads as follows: 

“(g) Security (excluding oil production facilities). Describe in your Plan how you secure and control access to the oil handling, processing and storage areas; secure master flow and drain valves; prevent unauthorized access to starter controls on oil pumps; secure out-of-service and loading/unloading connections of oil pipelines; and address the appropriateness of security lighting to both prevent acts of vandalism and assist in the discovery of oil discharges.� 

Unfortunately, this amendment has been postponed until November 10, 2010! 

In the meantime, the current SPCC Rule, Section 112.7(g)(1) applies, and it states “fully fence each facility handling, processing, or storing oil, and lock and/or guard entrance gates when the facility is not in production or is unattended�. In accordance with Section 112.7(a)(2), the SPCC Plan may deviate from the requirements in Section 112.7(g) if the “owner or operator provides equivalent environmental protection by some other means of spill prevention, control or countermeasure, states reasons for nonconformance in the SPCC Plan and describes in detail alternate methods and how these alternate methods provide equivalent environmental protection�. 

Examples of equivalent environmental protection for fencing recently provided by the EPA are: “the facility could have security cameras, if they are monitored by a guard service 24/7, or are monitored by the municipal police or a night watchman who patrols the tanks at night and weekends when the facility is closed.� These options might make sense for a large terminal, but would obviously be cost prohibitive for smaller bulk oil storage facilities. 

What are my Options if my Facility is Not Currently Fenced? 

Before November 10, 2010, if you do not provide the 24/7 live security option or equivalent protection suggested by the EPA, you can:

  • fully fence your facility with 6 ft high fencing (reminder: facility does not need to comprise entire property – just the tanks, loading rack and unloading area), or
  • confirm adequacy of lighting, and install security cameras that are properly positioned, and programmed to dial the SPCC Spill Prevention Coordinator’s cell phone or pager when camera detects certain movement near the tanks, pumps or piping, or
  • although not recommended for all facilities, request guidance from the state regulatory agency or the EPA to determine options for fencing.

Before you make a decision about fencing your facility, contact Scott Collins, P.E., St.Germain & Associates, Inc. at (207)-591-7000, ext 11.