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Is My Facility a Qualified Facility Under the SPCC Rule?

Posted by EHS Insight Resources on November 21, 2019 at 10:58 AM

Do you know if your facility is a “qualified facility” under the SPCC Rule? You’re not alone. Many new safety professionals are confused by the rules and who they apply to.

Here’s the problem: if it does apply to your facility and you don’t know it, you’re staring down serious consequences with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Here’s what you need to know to stay on the right side of the SPCC Rule, whether your facility is a qualified facility, and what that means.

What Is the SPCC Rule?

First, the basics.

The Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure Rule (SPCC Rule) is a regulation under the authority of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Clean Water Act. The EPA is the lead regulatory agency when it comes to protecting the environment and are tasked with, among other things, the prevention and control of oil spills in and around inland waters of the United States. The SPCC Rule is central to that authority.

Basically, the SPCC Rule sets forth regulation guiding the prevention of, preparedness for, and response to oil discharges. The goal is to prevent oil from reaching navigable waters and adjoining shorelines, containing oil discharge while the spill is cleaned up.

Important Definitions

When it comes to wading through environmental rules and regulations, knowing what certain technical terms mean is helpful. Here are a few technical words and their definitions that

When it comes to the SPCC rule, the term “oil” includes oil of any type and in any form. 

This includes but is not limited to: petroleum; fuel oil; sludge; oil refuse; oil mixed with wastes other than dredged spoil; fats, oils or greases of animal, fish, or marine mammal origin; vegetable oils, including oil from seeds, nuts, fruits, or kernels; and other oils and greases, including synthetic oils and mineral oils.

What Type of Facilities and Operations are Covered?

Any facility that stores, processes, refines, uses or otherwise consumes oil and is a non-transportation-related facility (which means operations that are not intended to move oil from location to another) is potentially subject to the SPCC rule. 

Per the official regulation, a facility or operation is covered under the SPCC Rule if they have:

  • An aggregate aboveground oil storage capacity greater than 1,320 US gallons, OR

  • A completely buried oil storage capacity greater than 42,000 US gallons and there is a reasonable expectation of an oil discharge into or upon navigable waters of the United States and shorelines adjoining the United States, you’re covered under the SPCC Rule.

How do you determine if you fit into these two criteria? The easiest way to figure this out is to walk around your facility or operation and take an inventory of anything that contains or uses oil. 

  • How many containers of used oil do you have? (again, include drums, totes, etc.—and include any waste oil that is mixed with any other substance)

  • How many containers of unused oil do you have? (include drums, totes, etc.)

  • How many pieces of equipment do you have that uses or contains oil and about how much oil does each one hold? (You should include operational vehicles, production equipment, etc.)

  • Do you have any above ground storage tanks to hold oil? If so, how many and how much do they hold? 

Once you’ve completed this task, you’ll need to calculate the oil storage capacity of these items. You can do that by using the shell capacity of the container (maximum volume) and not the actual amount of product stored in the container (operational volume). 

As an example, suppose you find three drums of oil in the maintenance shop. The drums can each hold 55 gallons. There’s no need to look inside the drums because it doesn’t matter how much is inside. You would calculate the capacity for these three drums as 3 drums x 55 gallons for a total of 165 gallons.

Now, suppose you also find a 5-gallon bucket of used oil that was drained out of piece of equipment. You don’t have to include this in your calculation because only containers with a storage capacity equal to or greater than 55 U.S. gallons need to be included.

Once you’ve gone through and identified all of the oil containing/using items and gotten a good estimate of how much oil is in each, add up the total amount of oil. Does it meet or exceed 1,320 US gallons? If so, you need an SPCC plan.

Is My Facility a Qualified Facility?

So, you’ve determined that your facility or operation is covered, and you will need an SPCC plan. Now you need to determine if you’re a qualified facility

This is slightly different from all other facilities covered under the SPCC Rule, as qualified facilities have streamlined guidelines.

The EPA has provided a simple chart that helps to determine whether your facility or operation is a “qualified” facility and if so, which Tier it falls under. If you need further information about qualified facilities, click the chart below.

Certified Plans—Do You Need One?

As if the SPCC Rule wasn’t already complicated enough, part of this process includes deciding whether the plan you have requires certification by a Professional Engineer or PE. Luckily, making this determination is simple. 

If your facility does not meet the criteria of a qualified facility, you will need a PE certified SPCC Plan. 

If your facility meets the criteria for either a Tier I or Tier II facility, you won’t need to have Professional Engineer or PE certify your SPCC Plan.

Navigating the SPCC Rule

If you’re like many EHS professionals, you’re worried about EPA regulations. Here’s the good news: if you take the time to do your homework, EPA regulations are fairly straightforward to understand and you can keep your facility on the straight and narrow.

And for everything else, we’re here to provide safety solutions tailored to the oil and gas industry. Because we know that with the unique health and safety challenges of the industry, a one-size-fits-all safety solution isn’t going to cut it.

Topics: Regulatory Information, Risk Management, Compliance, Oil & Gas, Chemicals, EPA

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