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Probe into Mossmorran by Scotland’s environment watchdog nears final stages

Mossmorran.
Mossmorran.

An investigation into Mossmorran by Scotland’s environment watchdog is nearing its final stages.

Sepa is probing an episode of prolonged elevated flaring at Fife Ethylene Plant in April 2019 which caused severe disruption to people in surrounding communities.

The agency aims to ensure that Mossmorran operators ExxonMobil Chemical and Shell UK make investment needed to make flaring the “exception rather than routine”.

It also outlined action it is taking to tackle the “unacceptable” impacts of flaring from the Cowdenbeath plant.

Meanwhile ExxonMobil stressed that flaring on Sunday from Shell’s Fife NGL Plant was simply a short transfer of the small vapour flare, which has been running constantly from its FEP flare to the Shell flare and back again.

Ian Buchanan, Sepa chief officer for compliance and beyond, said: “Sepa has been clear that flaring at Mossmorran has been both preventable and unacceptable.

“Having served final warning letters on both operators in 2018, our investigation into Easter 2019 flaring by ExxonMobil Chemical Limited is now in its final stages, with a small number of interviews remaining to be conducted.

“It’s important we complete the investigation and a further update will be provided in the new year.”

He said it was acting to ensure that both operators make the investment required, including the installation of noise reducing flare tips in 2020/21, an £140m investment programme and totally enclosed ground flares.

Mr Buchanan said: “Sepa welcomes the commitment to pause re-start operations during the Christmas and New Year period and to work to minimise the impact of those operations on in the new year.

“Sepa’s specialist regulatory and scientific officers will fully monitor the re-start.”

He said regular updates during the re-start and monitoring information would be published online at

sepa.org.uk/mossmorran

Sepa has served a series of permit variations to lock in compliance at Mossmorran and require best available techniques to be achieved as soon as possible.

Flaring is an important safety feature of the industrial facilities but new infrastructure will address issues which cause disturbance to local people, Sepa said.

Noise reducing flare tips are to be installed by ExxonMobil Chemical in 2020 and by Shell UK in 2021.

ExxonMobil has committed to installing new ground flares as soon as possible and announced £140m of improvements.

Shell must provide Sepa with a project plan by the end of January for their future use of ground flares. Plans for the installation of ground flares from ExxonMobil Chemical Limited are being reviewed.

Sepa also said air quality monitoring found levels of particulate matter remained well within UK air quality standards.

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