Produced Sand and Scale

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Key Legislation:

For more detail on the Legislation relevant to this page, please use the following links:

Supporting Legislation:
Guidance Notes:
Consent Needed: For new operations, an oil discharge permit is required for the discharge of any oil contaminated produced sand or scale.Under the OPPC Regulations, if a routine (even if only short-term) discharge of oil contaminated sand is made, it may be included in the Life Permit for the platform (see Produced Water). Otherwise, a Term Permit can be applied for if the discharge is related to a specific stand-alone time limited activity (see OPPC Summary Permit Table).If there is a risk of LSA or NORM contamination (e.g. scale) additional consents are required (see LSA).
How to Apply: Applications for an oil discharge permit under the OPPC Regulations must be submitted via the UK Oil Portal. Guidance Notes on the OPPC Regulations and Permit Application are available here (PDF document).
Who to Apply to: Application under the OPPC Regulations are to be submitted electronically on the UK Oil Portal using the PETS System.
When to Apply: Applications must be submitted at least 28 days before the permit is required.
Limits Placed on Produced Sand/Scale Discharges:

The performance standards relating to the release of produced sand are specific to each case. Maximum concentration of oil and permitted location of discharges will be detailed in the permit schedule and will normally require a demonstration that BAT is being used to limit the discharge of oil.

Water used to fluidise or wash the sand/scale is expected to be routed via the produced water treatment plant or if this is not possible via the hazardous drains system.

Produced Sand/Scale Discharges: The required sampling strategy for produced sand/scale discharges will be set on a case-by-case basis, and will be detailed in the permit schedule. Samples collected must be analysed for oil content (mg/kg or mg/l) using current Department for Energy Security and Net Zero approved standards. DECC Guidance on the Sampling and Analysis of Produced Water and Other Hydrocarbon Discharges is available here (Word document).The quantity of sand/scale discharged must also be measured or calculated to +/- 10% accuracy by volume. Total oil discharged can then be calculated on a monthly, annual or operational basis as appropriate. The OPPC Sampling Requirements Table provides a summary of sampling and measurement requirements for off-line and on-line backwashing of sand and scale.
Staff Competency: Persons undertaking sampling and analysis shall be provided with sufficient information, instruction and training to undertake the task. All training records must be retained.
What to Report:

The following records must be retained on the offshore installation for 2 years and reported to the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero on an annual basis (for life Oil Discharge permits) or at end of operation (for term permits) (see OPPC Sampling Requirements Table).

  • Date and time on which samples were collected
  • The oil on sand/scale concentration of each sample (mg/kg)
  • The quantity of sand/scale discharged monthly (or per operation) (kg)
  • The quantity of oil on sand/scale discharged monthly (or per operation) (kg)
  • The quantity of sand/scale discharged annually (kg)*
  • The quantity of oil on sand/scale discharged annually (kg)*

* Not applicable for off-line back-washing terms permits (i.e. report for period of operation only).

Arrangements must be in place to ensure the accuracy and correctness of records. Where records are maintained solely in electronic form, secure systems shall be provided so that all changes are recorded and the original entries are not deleted. Where hard copies only are maintained, the person in charge of the operation shall sign a true copy of the records for the time period over which they have responsibility.

Who to Report to: Reports on oil on sand/scale, total sand/scale discharged and total oil on sand/scale discharged should be reported to BEIS via the Offshore Inspectorate at
When to Report: Life permits must submit annual returns by 31 January each year for the preceding year.Term permits must submit returns no more than one calendar month after the end of operation.
What to do if in Breach of Consent/ Authorisation: In the event that the monthly average concentration of dispersed oil discharged on sand/scale exceeds the maximum concentration as detailed in the Oil Discharge permit schedule, the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero must be informed within 2 working days of submission of the monthly returns using the OPPC non-compliance notification form, which can be downloaded here (Word document) along with Guidance Notes on completion. If at any time (even if permit conditions are not breached) >1 tonne of oil is discharged within a 12 hour period or an unusual sheen is formed extending beyond the 500 metre zone, then this must be reported to the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero via the PON1. The PON1 (Word document) and Guidance Notes (Word document) can be accessed on the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero website. These PON1 reports are classed as OPPC non-compliance reports and are primarily intended to ensure the regulators are aware of an event which may give rise to further pollution, to reports from third parties or to public concern. Whilst not classed by the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero in the same way as PON1s for spills, submission of the non-compliance PON1 report is every bit as vital to ensure compliance with the OPPC Regulations.Where oil contaminated sand or scale has been accidentally spilt into the sea without a permit or outside the period authorised, the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero must be informed about a breach via the PON1.
Enforcement and Prohibition Notices: The Department for Energy Security and Net Zero, if of the opinion that the OPPC Regulations have been contravened, may issue an enforcement notice. This will specify the matters that constitute or are likely to constitute a contravention, steps required to rectify the matter and the time period within which these steps must be undertaken. If an enforcement notice is not addressed, the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero may take action itself and recover reasonable costs back from the operator. If the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero is of the opinion that the operation of an offshore installation involves an imminent risk of serious pollution as a consequence of any discharge of oil, the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero may serve a prohibition notice. This will specify the pollution risk, the steps required to remove it and the time period, and may withdraw a permit wholly or in part until the prohibition notice is withdrawn.

Offences under the OPPC Regulations, include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • Discharge of oil to sea without a valid and appropriate permit being in place
  • Failure to report an unpermitted discharge of oil
  • Failure to comply with a prohibition or enforcement notice
  • Failure to supply any information required under the terms of the permit
  • Wilfully obstructing a Department for Energy Security and Net Zeroinspector

A person found guilty of an offence will on summary conviction be liable to a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum.

DECC Inspections: The new OPPC Regulations give the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero far greater and wider ranging powers to monitor and investigate all oil discharges whether lawful or unlawful. Inspectors may board an installation at any reasonable time and make such investigations as they consider necessary to investigate whether the requirements, restrictions or prohibitions imposed under the OPPC Regulations have been or are being complied with, or to monitor any discharge of oil. The Department for Energy Security and Net Zero (then DECC) Offshore Oil and Gas Environment Unit Enforcement Policy sets out the general principles that Inspectors shall follow in relation to enforcement including prosecution.
Permit Renewal: Oil Discharge Life Permits will be reviewed at a frequency stipulated in the Oil Discharge permit. The minimum frequency of review will be every 3 years.If a Term Permit has been issued under the OPPC Regulations (i.e. for an activity specific time limited discharge operation), this will only be valid for that operation and will expire after this time. A new application will be required for new planned discharge operations.
Variation: If planning to change the amount/frequency of discharge, an application for a Variation to the Oil discharge permit will be needed. This must be prepared by amending the original application and clearly highlighting the changes. Variations will be dealt with by the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero as quickly as possible, but 28 days should be allowed for the assessment of any significant changes.

Environmental Alert 05/2014: Incorrect Calculation of Oil on Sand Concentrations:


DECC (now the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero) have identified that there is the potential for operators to be incorrectly calculating the concentrations of oil on sand due to misinterpretation of the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero Methodology for the Sampling and Analysis of Produced Water and Other Hydrocarbon Discharges. As a result, some operators may be under-reporting the amount of oil discharged to sea and, in some cases, potentially breaching their permitted discharge limits. This is attributed to confusion over the calculation required to convert the analysis results and subsequently use an incorrect value.

The Department for Energy Security and Net Zero requests that operators to review procedures for oil on sand analysis to ensure the correct value is being used during the analysis, updating if required. 

DECC Environmental Alert (001/2014) – PON1 Reporting:

Issued by DECC (now the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero) on 31 March 2014, this environmental alert (PDF document) highlights failures by a number of operators to comply with PON1 reporting requirements.Operators are reminded that in accordance with current reporting requirements PON1s must be reported within 6 hours to:

  • Aberdeen Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) in addition to immediate telephone notification to the nearest MRCC Coastguard Station.
  • Department for Energy Security and Net Zero; additional telephone notification is required to the Department for specific scenarios as detailed within the PON1 reporting guidance.
  • Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) and any relevant Statutory Nature Conservation Body (SNCB) in accordance with installation oil pollution emergency plan arrangements.