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What Is Passive vs Active Containment?

Cleanup crews use active containment SPCC plan to remove oil from ocean water

Different Approaches to Spill Containment for SPCC Plans

In following federal regulations and guidelines, organizations often use a combination of active and passive containment approaches to comply with spill control and countermeasure requirements. These approaches offer specific benefits depending on the situation, environment, or material in need of containment.

Active and passive containment comply with Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure (SPCC) general secondary containment requirements. The SPCC rule requires facilities to develop, maintain, and implement an oil spill prevention plan, or an SPCC plan. Under most SPCC plan requirements, facilities train employees on spill prevention, spill notification, active containment, and passive containment.

Typically, active and passive containment approaches work best for preventing discharge from a container or piece of equipment. A combination of containment approaches works best for these smaller, more easily contained spills compared to worst-case discharge spills.

Active Secondary Spill Containment

Active containment is when someone physically puts the containment devices in place. The containment may deploy before an activity begins or in reaction to a discharge. It requires personnel who must know the SPCC plan requirements and procedures so they can act quickly to begin active containment and prevent further harm to people, property and waterways.

Active containment measures include:

  • Placing drain covers over storm drains before an oil transfer
  • Placing drain covers over storm drains during spill response
  • Using a spill kit in the event of an oil spill
  • Using a spill response team in the event of an oil spill
  • Closing a gate valve prior to an oil discharge

Since active containment requires personnel, the containment solutions and the people available to deploy the active containment must both be identified in your SPCC plan. Many facilities use a combination of active and passive containment to prevent and respond to spills.

Passive Secondary Spill Containment

Putting something in place to contain spills before they happen is considered a passive containment approach. These devices control spills entirely and don’t require a person’s active involvement, unlike active containment measures.

Depending on the application, permanent or semi-permanent containment provides continuous protection. Consider passive secondary spill containment at remote sites that are not routinely staffed.

Passive containment devices include:

Many passive containment systems address SPCC requirements that stipulate containment for certain types of containers and oil-filled equipment. To meet this requirement, a spill containment solution must prevent worst-case scenario spills of hydrocarbon materials or discharge.

Additional Spill Containment Resources

Although passive secondary containment is generally preferred, it’s not always practical or possible for every area or process. Many facilities use a combination of active and passive containment to prevent and respond to spills.

What is your spill prevention plan? Do you need a SPCC plan in place at your facility? Learn more about different approaches to spill containment to stay compliant by reading additional SPCC plan resources by Polystar:

Railcar Transloading Containment Plan spill containment for transloaders Pad
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