SEPA Grants Permission For Peel Ports To Process 250,000 Tonnes Of Unspecified Oil Rig Waste At Hunterston Without An Environmental Impact Assessment

2nd September 2019

As result of enquiries to the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA), the Friends of the Firth of Clyde (FoFoC) have learned that a Waste Management Licence (WML) was granted to Clydeport Operations Ltd (AKA Peel Ports) on 12th July 2019. Alarmingly, the nature of the license and its contents confirm our view that the current licensing procedures are  simply not designed to cope with oil rig decommissioning. The nature of the license leaves us extremely worried about the capability and capacity of SEPA to oversee and enforce the highest environmental standards required to ensure the protection of the communities and intertidal waters surrounding Southannan Sands SSSI.

In addition, we have also learned that SEPA have responded to Marine Scotland (MS) as a statutory consultee to the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Screening Opinion currently being conducted by MS, indicating they are of the opinion that the decom ‘project’ does not require an EIA. It would appear that to reach this decision they have considered ‘the project’ as covering the dredging in isolation not the whole project, as required by the EIA guidelines.

Disappointingly, despite early assurances from SEPA that we would be kept informed of developments, it is only through our own persistent efforts that we have remained in the picture. Sadly this is an other example of the ‘salami slicing’ of the regulatory and licensing processes which makes it really difficult for the local community and wider public to understand the sheer enormity of what is being permitted to happen at Hunterston and the surrounding waters of the Firth of Clyde.

Read the Waste Management License issued by SEPA ,12 July 2019 NB hover over bottom of doc to scroll through pages

WML Issued 12 Jun 19 SEPA-APP-RPS01_GLWN_PRN005218_2389_001


What does the Waste Management Licence allow Clydeport (AKA Peel Ports) to do?

  • ‘Treatment & keeping’ of 250,000 tonnes of unspecified waste on site at any one time. We know from the WML application submitted in October 2018 that this will include unprecedented amounts of scrap metal, asbestos, PBCs, NORM and organic marine matter.

See below: Extract of Clydeport / Peel Ports WML application – Table of Waste Type & Volume (Oct ’18) NB hover over bottom of doc to scroll through pages

Waste table


  • The licence defines an ‘Asset’ as “an installation or vessel used in the offshore production of oil or gas (or part of such an installation or vessel) which is waste”.
  • All the procedural controls rely on a ‘Asset Specific’ assessment being undertaken 30 days before it is accepted into the Hunterston decom facility.
  • It is not clear where the ‘Asset Specific’ assessment would take place – for example, if the ‘asset’ was a semi-submersible rig, which is classified as a vessel, this could take place at Hunterston Coal Jetty or at a cold stacking site such as Loch Striven, as was suggested by Peel representatives at the Marine Scotland PAC meeting in August ’18 . As the ‘Competent Harbour Authority’ Peel hold statutory powers over pilotage across the Firth of Clyde and make  all decisions regarding the mooring and movement of vessels in its waters.
  • Troublingly the licence uses inconsistent wording , which raises the question of whether ‘Disposal’ will or will not be allowed at the site – this would open Hunterston to becoming a massive land fill site, potentially containing massive amounts of metals, asbestos and rotting marine matter.
  • No ‘Working Plan’ is provided and presumably until an operator is in place this will not be available. As such there is extremely little detail about the operational workings of the site. *NB CessCom Decom have removed their signs from the entrance to the site suggesting they are no longer operational at Hunterston – despite reports in the Carrick Gazette that, as an Ayrshire based company, they have awarded £100k loan by Business Loans Scotland (BLS).
  • There is no description of how disposal and treatment of the substantial volumes of water required for cleaning  of the scrap, control of dust and noxious odours from the organic materials will be managed.
  • There is no description of how waste materials will be transported from the site.
  • There is a requirement for impermeable surfaces, the site is built on an area at risk to wave over topping on reclaimed land. We have longstanding evidence of leakage of coal slurry from the construction yard into the SSSI from previous operations.
  • The interchangeability of ‘Clydeport Operations Ltd’ & ‘Peel Ports’, both of which are ultimately ‘Peel Group’, through the different licensing processes makes it very difficult to track which part of the organisation is responsible for which part of the operation, for example the marine licence for the construction of the site has been lodged by Peel Ports. Whilst operationally this might not be of importance, it does reflect the complexity, not just of the Hunterston decom project, but also of Peel Group’s business structures.

In short, the wellbeing and safety of the community, the protection of Southannan Sands SSSI and the sustainability of the marine environment is totally dependent on SEPA making the right decisions in a very short, 30 day, time period between the information coming from the Licence Holder and the ‘Asset’ arriving.

What is the relevance of the WML to Friends of the Firth of Clyde call for an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)?

Those supporters that have followed, what Marine Scotland (FOI correspondence, 30th August ’19) & Scottish Govt advisors (FOI correspondence, June 2019) have both described as a  ‘complex and complicated case’, will recall that FoFoC raised initially significant concerns about the WML application submitted by Clydeport (AKA) Peel Ports in October 2018.

What was our objection to the WML?

A WML is the type of licence required by scrap dealers and waste transporters.

The fundamental basis of our objection to the WML application was that the three (salami sliced) planning permissions granted by North Ayrshire Council, without the need for an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) in April 2018, were granted on the written agreement that Pollution Prevention & Control (PPC) Licence would be required for full assessment and mitigation of the acknowledged risks to the environment, including the SSSI.

See below correspondence between NAC & Envirocentre acting on behalf of Peel Ports (Jan 2018) NB hover over bottom of doc to scroll through pages


Redacted re PPC NAC 7 10th Jan 2018 H-EnvCentre letter to NAC Enviro Strategy 17_01273


What is a PPC Licence? PPC (Scotland) regulations apply an integrated environmental approach to the regulation of certain industrial activities. The main aim of PPC is to achieve a high level of protection of the environment taken as a whole this means environmental risks caused by emissions to air, water and land, plus a range of other environmental effects, must be considered together rather than assessing individual emissions or unit operations in isolation.

SEPA have openly acknowledged that existing regulation & licensing systems are not fit for the purpose for the emerging oil & gas installation decommissioning industry. In October 2018 they opened the public consultation on their new sector plan for oil and gas decommissioning “which will bring a clear and coordinated approach to regulation. It will put environmental protection and sustainable resource use at the heart of its development, managing decommissioned waste streams in ways that create economic and social success from environmental excellence”. SEPA’s sector plan highlights the complexity and environmental risks of a poorly managed /regulated decommissioning industry. This means that whilst we await the final adoption of the sector plan, Clydeport (AKA Peel Ports) decommissioning activities will be managed within a licensing framework which, by SEPA’s own admission, is not fit for purpose.

What next?

We will be following up the implications of the WML with SEPA & our QC.

“SAY NO WAY WITHOUT AN EIA”  #SaveSouthannanSands.

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