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Flaring expected at Mossmorran as Exxon restarts operations next week

Mossmorran.
Mossmorran.

Communities have been warned to expect days of flaring at Mossmorran as operator ExxonMobil restarts operations.

The company said it is next week aiming to begin production at its Fife Ethylene Plant (FEP), which has been closed since September following the failure of two of its three boilers.

The re-start process is expected to take around six days.

Plant manager Jacob McAlister said: “We are currently aiming to enter the main restart phase next week.

“For this phase, we need to use our elevated flare. We will advise you of the exact date for this as natural gas from St Fergus begins its journey to FEP, around three to four days in advance.

“Flaring is necessary as our major process machines are started individually, in sequence.

“Until each machine is online and producing on-spec ethylene, we need to divert gas safely to flare.”

He said ExxonMobil would be implementing a number of actions aimed at reducing the size of the elevated flare in a bid to reduce issues for local communities.

“We will now begin a comprehensive communications programme which will help give local communities insight to the steps we will be taking.”

The restart announcement came as Scotland’s environment watchdog confirmed an investigation into the Cowdenbeath facility has entered its final stages.

Sepa is probing an episode of prolonged elevated flaring there in April, which caused severe disruption to people in surrounding communities and is expected to publish the results soon.

It served permit variations last year to ensure operators complied with best available techniques and that a multi-million pound investment promised by Exxon and Shell was implemented.

Noise-reducing flare tips are to be installed by Exxon this year and by Shell UK in 2o21.

Meanwhile, Mossmorran Working Group is seeking a new independent chairperson.

The group, estabished in 2017, brings together ExxonMobil and Shell, safety regulators, the community and political representative, to discuss issues at the plant.

Founders, former Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath Labour MP Lesley Laird and Professor Wilson Sibbett from St Andrews University, have stepped down as co-chairs.

Mrs Laird said: “I believe Mossmorran Working Group made real progress in representing the communities we are here to serve by holding the companies and regulators to account whilst establishing a more open and productive dialogue, and I believe it is important that this relationship is continued under a new independent chair.”

Fife Council will host a meeting next month to decide the next steps for the group.

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