Fuel storage plans at Portishead spark fears of leak

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By Prue_Reid | Tuesday, September 18, 2012, 11:50

Concerned residents are expected to pack a special meeting to talk about plans to open additional fuel tanks at a storage depot in Portishead.

The Oil and Pipelines Agency has applied to North Somerset Council for a hazardous substance consent to open additional three tanks at is fuel storage depot, which was built in the 1950s, at Redcliffe Bay.

Currently there are 13 tanks on site but only five are used to store aviation fuel which is pumped to airports around the country.

There are also two 'slop' tanks on the site without consent which are used to store waste fuel products.

The additional tanks would see the amount of kerosene stored at the tanks rise 21,000 tonnes to 55,000 tonnes. 

The application has prompted concerns from residents and Portishead Town Council who said it lacked vital information and there had been little or no consultation.

North Somerset Council is now calling for a meeting with experts from the OPA and Health and Safety Executive where questions about the application can be answered in an open forum.

A meeting is planned for the coming weeks.

Council leader Nigel Ashton suggested the meeting should take place before any decision was taken on whether to grant the consent.

Mr Ashton said:  "We need the officials from the relevant agencies summons to a meeting and have a briefing with all parties where questions can be asked and answered by experts in the field.

"We are not the best people to judge this and to take a risk with the local population's safety is madness without the full facts infront of us."

People who live near the site packed a meeting of North Somerset north area planning committee to air their concerns.

Chartered engineer, Roger English, who lives 200 yards from the site, said: "There is huge scope for error in the operation of these hazardous sites down to cultural and commercial pressure.

"Local residents should be briefed fully of the safety measures in place to give us confidence in the operation of the site."

Chartered physisist Rodney Wheeler, of Portishead, said: "The site safety report is a substandard document.

"It does not justify the risks that are imposed from this site on local residents.

"As the hazardous safety authority, the council is not only responsible for granting consent, but it is also responsible for the future consequences of granting that consent."

A report by the Health and Safety Executive said the risks from increasing the number of tanks at the site were so small that there was no significant reason for refusing the application on safety grounds.

OPA officials say the additional tanks are needed back in operation due to an increase in demand for fuel from airports.

OPA commercial director, Mike Genge, said: "The additional tanks in the proposal do not increase the risk to the environment and local residents.

"The demand in the UK for aviation fuel is set to grow at about 500,000 tonnes a year or five per cent per annum.

"About 15 per cent of the UK demand, 60 per cent of which is at Heathrow/Gatwick, is imported here and is stored for settling and testing at Redcliffe Bay  and Hallen prior to despatch towards the main airports.

"Product imported at Portbury is also used for military purposes.

"In order to meet the growth in demand, we need to create additional storage in the Avonmouth area and the best option is to reinstate capacity at Redcliffe Bay."

The fuel is pumped through an underground pipe network to several commercial airports throughout the country.

The fuel is brought to Royal Portbury Dock by sea tanker, and pumped up to the storage tanks at Redcliffe Bay and Hallen.

The underground pipeline runs under Portbury, through parts of Portishead  - including through the grounds of Gordano School - and up to Redcliffe Bay.

Council leader Councillor Nigel Ashton said a round the table meeting was needed so questions raised by local councillors and residents could be answered before any decision was made.

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