Dr Fergal Callaghan outlines what is required of companies that store, use or manufacture chemicals under the Seveso III Directive and the likely costs of compliance
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Author: Dr Fergal Callaghan, director with responsibility for environment, health and safety with AWN Consulting

There are in the region of 100 sites in Ireland currently covered by Seveso and this is likely to rise under the upcoming Seveso III Directive, as sites that were not previously Seveso sites are set to become so. In addition, some of those that are lower tier will become upper tier. Companies do, however, have an alternative option: these sites could begin planning now in order to identify storage facilities off site. This would keep the subject site out of the scope of the Seveso III Directive.

Given that the Directive is to be implemented in just under two years (no later than 1 June 2015), many companies are already assessing the impact of Seveso III on their status and beginning to cost and identify possible scenarios to ensure compliance at minimum cost.

Classification of a site under Seveso III is a difficult exercise with a lot of variables, especially for acute toxicity – there is no direct translation between hazard phrases and what comes under Seveso. This depends on LD50, LC50 and the level of information available. For many substances, this data is difficult to obtain, but the European Chemicals Agency databases are a good place to start.

The cost of becoming a Seveso site include compliance fees, consultancy fees, public disclosure of information, public relations issues and land-use planning impacts around the site. It also includes capital investment in areas including instrumentation, monitoring equipment, retention bunds, tanks, surface water control systems, toxic gas protection and detection systems.

Management structures and operational costs including head-count may also be need to be factored in, because additional personnel may be required, as well as changes in management systems and operational activities on site to demonstrate compliance with the requirements of Seveso.

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IMPACT OF SEVESO III DIRECTIVE

The main impacts of Seveso III are:

  • Health hazards (acute toxicity) and aquatic toxicity;
  • New named substances; and
  • New categories.

Companies also need to understand which substances could change scope and impact on aggregation calculation. There is no easy way to determine impacts on status, except by working through the revised classifications and revising the calculations. GHS (Globally Harmonised System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals) classifications are not yet available for every substance, however. Operators will have to self-classify; safety data sheets are not considered sufficiently reliable, so the company will have to do research on properties of substances (this is especially relevant for the new E1 and E2 Dangerous to the Environment Classes)

Risk phrases R50, R50/53 and R51/53 will change to E1 (hazardous to the aquatic environment, acute I/chronic I) and E2 (hazardous to the aquatic environment, chronic II). Heavy fuel oil, which will be included under petroleum products, and sites will be brought in by 14 February 2014. Sodium hypochlorite mixtures are also named – inclusion depends on active chlorine concentration and other substances in the mixture. The supermarket operator will be required to undertake an assessment to confirm whether or not this is the case.

Alternative fuels (similar in purpose and properties to gasoline and naphtha) and upgraded biogas (equivalent quality to natural gas) are also affected by Seveso.

New multiplying factors for mixtures must also be taken into account, as well as the need to supply information to the public. Information will need to be permanently electronically available – as per annex – and this has significant implications for the protection of intellectual property, particularly for multi-national companies.

Information provision to local residents may be more onerous for top-tier sites, while there is also the possibility that inspection reports will be made available online, as per in the UK.

With regard to Seveso III and aerosol storage, there will be two new categories of aerosols. Rules on aerosols will bring more warehouses (including supermarket warehouses) into Seveso, as the criteria have changed to net flammable content such as aerosols containing gels and foams.

Seveso sites need to address risk of vapour cloud explosion occurring, while Seveso operators also need to develop safety performance indicators – in the UK, the British Aerosol Manufacturers’ Association has developed an industry guide on this subject.

PLANT EXPANSION AND PLANNING PROCESS

Greater emphasis will be needed on public consultation in the planning process. Seveso also requires more emphasis on protecting areas of natural sensitivity at the planning stage through the use of safety distances. This is likely to be problematic for many sites in Ireland, which are often located close to special areas of conservation (SACs) or special protection areas (SPAs).

There are practical difficulties in assessing the impact of a major accident on SACs and SPAs, due to the lack of toxic end-point data for the impact of chemicals on many bird and animal species

Given that the latest date by which Seveso III must be implemented is 30 June 2015, this does not leave a lot of time for companies due to a number of reasons.

  • Capital cost

Some companies will need to make capital investment as a result of Seveso III, but their capital allocation period for 2013 may have already closed. As a result, they will have to make an application for capital now, for the budget year 2014. Assuming that they receive the capital approval, this would give them very little time to put the necessary infrastructure in place, as they would have to go through tendering, design and construction and commissioning in less than 18 months.

  • Operational cost – staff

Some companies will be moving to the Seveso upper tier as a result of Seveso III and will have to increase manpower within the Health & Safety Authority team on site. Again, this will require approval within the 2013 budget year, but may be pushed to 2014. Companies must examine what Seveso III will mean for them in terms of staff costs.

  • Operational challenge – compliance

From our experience, for US multinationals in particular, coming into Seveso as a result of Seveso III, or moving tiers, means significant change for a company, as their plant and process systems are designed to US standards and their operational systems follow US Codes of Practice.

Seveso places a duty on companies to comply with European standards and demonstrate they are taking all necessary measures to reduce the risk of a major accident occurring, and reducing the risks to people and the environment to a level which is as low as is reasonably practicable (ALARP).

Moving to compliance with such a system is a considerable challenge (when measured against European standards) and planning to do so will take time and resources. For example, ammonia gas is not classed as toxic by the National Fire Protection Association in the USA, but it is in Europe. As a result, an ammonia storage or distribution system designed and specified in the USA will not meet the ‘all necessary measures’/ALARP criteria in Ireland.

  • Confidentiality

Seveso III requires considerable information relating to chemicals to be made available to the public. This will be a challenge for many companies (both US multinationals and others) on a number of levels. It will be a challenge in terms of protecting intellectual property, while also complying with the requirements of Seveso III.

It will also be an issue of public perception, as companies will have to make available on the internet (possibly the Health & Safety Authority’s website) information that includes the risk of fatality, toxic gas risk, flammable risk and thermal radiation risk. This will require considerable effort on the part of companies to communicate to the community around them. Of equal impact, this information, once available on the internet, is searchable worldwide and may be of interest to competitors.

  • Planning permission

Under the Planning and Development Act, companies that move from the lower to upper tier may require planning permission to do so, if the change increases the major accident hazard associated with the facility. The planning system can take time to complete all its procedures and facilitates the opportunity to appeal an application, so if Seveso III means a change in tier status, it may also require a planning application. This has to be factored into the timeline for compliance.

In summary, the Seveso III Directive will bring many changes to those storing, using or manufacturing chemicals. Are you prepared?

Dr Fergal Callaghan is director with responsibility for environment, health and safety with AWN Consulting, with a focus on Seveso industries, process safety and environmental modelling. He has a BSc in industrial chemistry and a PhD in chemical engineering. Callaghan is a member of the Royal Society of Chemistry, a member of the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management, an Associate Member of the Institution of Chemical Engineers and a Member of the Environmental Protection and Water Subject Groups at the IChemE. He has over two decades’ engineering and consultancy experience in the Irish, UK, US, Middle Eastern and European markets. Callaghan is a guest lecturer in process safety engineering at Queen’s University Belfast and in environmental engineering at Trinity College Dublin.

CPD 1-Day Seminar: Managing Industrial Risk and the New Seveso III Directive

Date: Friday 21 June, 2013

Venue: Engineers Ireland, 22 Clyde Road, Ballsbridge, Dublin 4

Contact: cpdtraining@engineersireland.ie or 01-665-1305

For more details: http://www.engineersireland.ie/cpd-training/cpd-training/training-calendar/2013/june/managing-industrial-risk-and-the-new-seveso-iii-di.aspx

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  Author: Dr Fergal Callaghan, director with responsibility for environment, health and safety with AWN Consulting There are in the region of 100 sites in Ireland currently covered by Seveso and this is likely to rise under the upcoming Seveso III Directive, as sites that were not previously Seveso sites are set...