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In France, any industrial or agricultural operation likely to create risks, cause pollution or nuisance, in particular for the safety and health of local residents is considered as a classified facility. ICPE stands for Installation Classified for the Protection of the Environment.


Under this acronym, we find activities which are visibly polluting but also other installations or everyday equipment: gas station, waste collection center, wastewater treatment plant... and energy production facilities: wind turbines, photovoltaic power plant...

France had in 2018 (source: Ministry of Ecological Transition) around 500,000 classified installations.

The ICPE classification of a site is not linked to its importance but to its activities and substances used.

Before any activity, all professionals must ask themselves the following questions:

Is my company an ICPE?

Each ICPE installation is classified in a nomenclature which determines the obligations to which it is subject.

The ICPE nomenclature is codified in France by the article R. 511-9 of the Environmental Code, of which it constitutes the appendix. Be careful as it evolves regularly according to feedback, emerging activities, national or European political orientations.

The ICPE nomenclature classifies operations according to their activities and/or the substances used. There are 4 major groups of headings: 

  • 1XXX – Substances ;
  • 2XXX – Activities;
  • 3XXX – “IED” activities;
  • 4XXX – Substances « Seveso 3 ».

The classification of an operation is carried out by comparing the nature and volumes of the activities or substances with the thresholds set by this nomenclature. This comparison will make it possible to define the classification system applicable to each heading. 

In descending order of the level of risk: authorization (A), registration (E), or declaration (D) regimes, simple declaration (D) or declaration with control (DC).

Depending on the scale of the activities and the hazardous substances present within the installation, the installations may also be subject to the IED (industrial Emissions Directive) and SEVESO 3 directives which impose additional constraints related to discharge thresholds to the environment and management of accidental situations.

What does the ICPE classification mean?

The ICPE classification requires compliance with some requirements defined by ministerial decree depending on the headings and the classification system 

The applicable requirements are proportional to the scale of the activity and the substances. They relate in particular to the operating procedures, the discharge conditions and the means of intervention in the event of a disaster. 

Before the start-up of the installation, the operator demonstrates by carrying out studies that the installation does not harm the interests mentioned referred to in articles L 511-1 and L 211-1 of the Environmental Code. This demonstration is carried out via a file submitted to the prefecture. This file must meet the applicable regulatory obligations according to the classification scheme determined: 

  • A – Environmental authorization to be carried out before starting the installation. Proof of compliance is provided by carrying out an environmental assessment or an impact study (examination on a case-by-case basis) and hazards. These files allow the Prefect to assess the impacts of future installations thanks to: 
    • The impact study: its content is proportionate to the environmental sensitivity of the area affected by the project, the importance and nature of the work and its foreseeable impact on the environment and human health (via a study health risks). The themes addressed in this study: physical environment (climatology, topography, geology, hydrogeology, hydrology, major risks), natural environment (fauna, flora, biodiversity), human environment (demography, socio-economic context, noise, waste, urban planning, infrastructure and networks, landscape);
    • The hazard study : it specifies the risks to which the installation may expose, directly or indirectly, the interests mentioned in article L.511-1 of the Environmental Code in the event of an accident, whether the cause is internal or external to the installation. It defines and justifies the appropriate measures to reduce the probability and the effects of these accidents. It generally calls for modeling of hazardous phenomena via calculation codes such as PHAST or FLUMilog.

The application for environmental authorization is subject to public inquiry; 

  • E – Registration to be carried out before starting the installation. The operator proves that the risk related to its installations is of an acceptable level and that its installations comply with the regulations via a registration file. The application for registration is subject to a public inquiry; 
  • D or DC – Declaration . The operator sends to the Prefect the description and compliance elements of his installations. Receives in return a receipt of declaration. 

If the installation is subject to periodic checks (DC). The operator chooses the inspection body.

Depending on the location where the project or facilities is installed as well as the nature of activities and substances involved, specific studies may be necessary: acoustic studies (measurements of the sound environment, modeling of the noise impact), fauna and flora studies; atmospheric dispersion studies…

Based on the file submitted by the operator, the opinions of the administrations and the public; the Prefect will authorize the installation (or not) and will set the operating conditions to be respected in the form of a declaration receipt or a prefectural order (registration or authorization regime). 

And now that my installation is authorized?

Installation monitoring is implemented in accordance with the conditions set by the decrees applicable to the installation. Audits can be set up to ensure compliance with the requirements applicable to the installation.

In the event of changes to the installation or changes to the operating conditions, these changes must be brought to the attention of the Prefect via a so-called "Bring to knowledge" file. 

Similarly, if the installation ceases its activity, the operator must inform the administration and produce a report on the restoration of the site.

My installation is already declared, registered or authorized but I need to ensure its compliance.

An ICPE facility is subject to regulatory requirements depending on its activities and/or substances present within it. These prescriptions are dictated by ministerial or prefectural decrees. The operator must comply with the requirements applicable and must be able to justify compliance with these requirements to the authorities. 

In this context, carrying out regular audits makes it possible to ensure the conformity of the installation, to identify and correct any discrepancies: Self-monitoring, modification of installations…

During a visit to the site, all the prescriptions listed in the decrees applicable to the installation are examined point by point.  The documentary points are also examined for facilities having the obligation to make available certain documents of operation.

Non-compliance points may be included in an action plan to ensure their treatment. 

If you cannot find your way around all these sections and procedures, Safengy supports you: 

  • Regulatory audit: 
    • analysis and classification report as part of your new project or modifications to your installations,
    • verification of the compliance of your existing installations with regulations, recommendations for compliance;
  • Regulatory files according to the classification system; 
  • Folder of “bringing to knowledge”; 
  • Specific files (atmospheric dispersion studies, modeling of hazardous phenomena, etc.)
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