CLH Pipeline System

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GPSS marker plate, near Heydon, Cambridgeshire, Great Britain. The marker text: S/SW shows marker is on the Sandy-Saffron Walden link; 24 kilometres (15 mi) is the distance from Sandy; up-arrow indicates that the normal flow is away from the observer looking at the notice
GPSS pre-WW2 white marker, with post-WW2 yellow/black post
The GPSS crosses the non-navigable Stroudwater Canal, near to Whitminster, Gloucestershire
The tanker TORM VITA discharges aviation fuel from Berth 7 at Royal Portbury Dock near Bristol. Known as the Bristol Aviation Fuel Terminal, it was managed then by the Oil and Pipelines Agency, with it contents then distributed by the GPSS
The former Berwick Wood Petroleum Supply Depot (PSD), located in Berwick, Gloucestershire, was one of the original additional storage facilities built to connect to the GPSS
The railway-connected Misterton & Rawcliffe PSDs located in Misterton, Nottinghamshire, which is also connected to the GPSS
The former Stonesby PSD located in Leicestershire, now the site of an NTL transmission site and aerial

The CLH Pipeline System (CLH-PS), formerly the Government Pipelines and Storage System (GPSS), is a United Kingdom pipeline system run by Compañía Logística de Hidrocarburos (CLH). The network consists of over 2,500 kilometres (1,600 mi) of pipeline and 46 other facilities, and is interconnected with several other pipeline systems.

Pre-WW2 planning[edit]

As part of the planning and preparations for World War II, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) realised that the ability to distribute aviation fuel to the RAF's aircraft and petrol to its ground support vehicles was essential to sustaining any battle, in which superiority would be gained mainly in the air. In 1936, authorisation was given to build a top secret pipeline between the two major west-coast oil importation ports, the Port of Liverpool and its Stanlow Refinery, to Avonmouth Docks near Bristol. Completed and operational from 1938, it ran directly between the two ports to allow existing road and railway-based distribution facilities to operate, irrespective of the port in which the oil or fuel was landed.

National pipeline system[edit]

Once war had been declared in September 1939, planners recognised that the surface road distribution network - especially in the Midlands and South of England - were too vulnerable to air attack to sustain RAF activities. They hence decided to build initially a series of underground fuel storage facilities, which would then be linked to an extended national pipeline system which would run eastwards from its existing location, and then onwards to the key airfields located in the Midlands, South and East of England.

With construction undertaken at night to avoid observation from the Nazi Luftwaffe reconnaissance aircraft, the pipeline was extended west along the River Thames valley to supply RAF stations in Wiltshire, Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Middlesex. Proceeding underneath London, the pipeline stretched into Kent, and also branched north east into Essex, Norfolk and Lincolnshire, where a northern extension from Liverpool also looped into the system. This enabled consistent supply to RAF stations as far east as RAF Lakenheath and RAF Mildenhall. Further extensions branched: from the original mainline to RAF stations located close-by in the Northwest, Midlands and south through Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Gloucestershire; and a second more southerly located eastwards loop from Bristol that supplied RAF stations in Wiltshire and Hampshire, including connecting with the existing rail-connected RAF reserve fuel depot at Micheldever and the decommissioned Fawley Refinery which had become a wartime fuel storage depot.

Renamed the Government Pipelines and Storage System (GPSS), with the entry of the United States into WW2, additional fuel storage depots were built in preparation for the invasion of mainland Europe, including those at Hallen and Berwick Wood and Flax Bourton.[1] Resultantly, the system had enough capacity and storage to enable not only RAF and USAF operations into occupied Europe, but was also used to store and supply fuel for Operation Pluto.[2]

Post WW2[edit]

Post-WW2, whilst remaining a national top secret, ownership was passed to the Ministry of Defence (MoD), who delegated operation to the Oil and Pipelines Agency (OPA) on the MoD's behalf. Private-sector usage was encouraged, but limited; the OPA's task was to provide "maximum development of private sector usage of the GPSS, provided this did not impinge upon its primary purpose of supplying the required fuel for defence purposes and did not require capital investment from public funds." As a result, the pipeline was extended and developed to allow connection to: all UK-based oil refineries and major fuel processing depots; as well as all major civilian airports - including Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted and Manchester - during the period of the Cold War. As a result of the 2000 fuel protests, Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon instructed the MoD to plan for extension of the GPSS to beat any future fuel blockade.[3]


To ensure the continual operation of the pipeline, from the start of operations the RAF were instructed by the MoD to fly-over the entire 1,500 miles (2,400 km) system daily, and report back any hits/problems - until its sale in 2012, this procedure was undertaken by the RAF daily.[3] Post-WW2, the locations of CLH-PS pipelines were marked with identification posts with bright yellow roofs with a thick black line. Even so, in March 2000 at Furness Vale near Whaley Bridge, High Peak, Derbyshire one of the lines was cut by workmen.[2]

Privatisation: CLH-PS[edit]

In May 2012 the UK Government announced plans to sell all or part of the GPSS[4] and legislation to enable it to do so was included in the Energy Act 2013.

Three years after announcing the plan to sell GPSS, on 20 March 2015, the GPSS was acquired by Spanish oil network operator Compañía Logística de Hidrocarburos (CLH) for £82m.[5] The MoD also signed a contract with CLH for the military to be continued to be supplied with fuel via the GPSS. The sale did not include the six coastal Oil Fuel Depots owned by the MoD, which continued to be operated and maintained by the residual OPA.[6]

Following its acquisition by CLH, the GPSS was subsequently renamed the CLH Pipeline System (CLH-PS).[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Taylor Wimpey plans to build 800 new homes and a primary school next to a major fuel depot". Secret Bases. Retrieved 29 January 2011. 
  2. ^ a b Susie Thomson (April 2009). "Fuelling the front line" (PDF). desider. Ministry of Defence (12): 12–13. 
  3. ^ a b
  4. ^ "UK considers sale of aviation fuel network". Reuters. 22 May 2012. 
  5. ^ "CLH acquires UK oil distribution network". Compañía Logística de Hidrocarburos. Retrieved 31 March 2015. 
  6. ^ "Government Pipeline and Storage System Sale - HCWS434". UK Parliament. Retrieved 31 March 2015. 
  7. ^ "CLH Begins Operating the UK's Largest Fuel Pipeline Network". Retrieved 20 May 2015. 

External links[edit]