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DOE Goes to the Fire Code for the Industry's Standards

It has been ten months since the first draft of the petroleum retail industry standards was written. So many meetings have already been spent debating and hammering out the final form of the standards. As of this writing, the Department of Energy (DOE) is working to produce what is hoped will be the final draft which incorporates provisions that should help ensure the code will be effective and can be implemented.

The delay in DOE’s release of the guidelines is largely due to the divergent positions among industry players, particularly on the issue of whether or not to allow above-ground fuel storage tanks which the new players espouse.

To resolve the storage tank issue, Caltex engineering officials Ed Maximo and Luis Tan suggested that standards be based on the Fire Code. "We do not have to invent a new set of guidelines. Let us follow what the Fire Code requires," proposed Tan, Caltex Engineering Services Manager. "Storage tank regulations vary among countries. The minimum guideline government can set is to follow local regulations."

The following provisions should give retailers an idea of the nature of the new code:

  1. Retailing of fuel will not be allowed in installations or containers that are temporary in nature such as bottles, buckets, mobile dispensing vehicles and other similar means.
  2. Per Rule 23 Section 23-101 B of the Fire Code, all equipment for the storage, handling and dispensing of flammable and combustible liquids shall be in accordance with the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Pamphlet No. 30, "Flammable and Combustible Liquids." The NFPA issues internationally recognized and accepted safety standards for the handling of flammable and combustible petroleum products.
  3. Liquid petroleum products shall not be dispensed by gravity from tanks, drums, barrels or similar containers nor from any above-ground petroleum storage tanks into the fuel tank of a motor vehicle directly.
  4. Pertinent documents shall be submitted to the Oil Industry Administrabion Bureau of the DOE before construction and before operation of a petroleum retailing facility.
  5. A 3-month transition period from the effectivity date of the Circular shall be given to existing outlets for compliance. New outlets must be compliant from the start. Sanctions, by way of penalties and/or the revocation of permits, shall be imposed on entities found violating the Department Circular and appropriate ordinances.

The code of guidelines may still encounter rough sailing. New players will definitely protect their substantial investments for above-ground storage tanks and mobile tank trucks. The autonomy of local governments to adopt, modify or reject the DOE’s Circular is another factor to contend with. In the final analysis, it will still be the legitimate players and the oil companies who will continue to lobby for a business environment that promotes fair and safe practices essential to our growing economy.


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