Environmental protection response to leaks from high pressure oil pipelines

Control Measure Knowledge

The response and tactics used will depend on the type and severity of the oil pipeline leak, its location and resource availability. Any incident is likely to be declared a major incident because of the large quantities of highly flammable product released. Following a risk assessment, the fire and rescue service response may include:

  • Blanketing the pollutant with firefighting foam to reduce vapour and ignition risks
  • Providing resources to protect:
    • Water supplies
    • Ecological and heritage assets
    • Sewerage systems

The pipeline operator should be contacted immediately as they may be able to isolate the section of the pipeline that has been compromised. For more information refer to Utilities and fuel – Isolate pipelines.

The environmental agency should be notified about the oil pipeline leak so that they can take steps to protect the environment.


In some cases, the oil or other pipeline pollutants can be diverted to areas that are considered to be of lower environmental value or having less risk, sometimes referred to as sacrificial areas. For example, it may be appropriate to use low-lying areas, such as roadways.

Emergency plans and diversion strategies, including arrangements for the equipment that would be required, for oil pipeline leaks should be agreed with the agencies involved, which could include:

  • Environmental agency
  • Highways agency
  • Pipeline operator
  • Sewerage undertaker
  • Nature conservation body
  • Public health organisations
  • Local authority
  • Police
  • Landowners
  • Marine agency

Strategic Actions

Tactical Actions