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Sepa assesses Mossmorran flaring impact after severe storm causes power cut

Elevated flaring has now stopped at the plant.
Elevated flaring has now stopped at the plant.

The impact of flaring at the Fife Mossmorran plant as severe storms battered the region is being assessed by Scotland’s environment watchdog.

Sepa officers have been deployed to the complex operated by ExxonMobil and Shell in response to Wednesday’s elevated flaring, said to have been caused by a process upset.

Several hours of extreme thunder and lightning on Tuesday night resulted in a power cut, affecting both the Fife Ethylene Plant and the NGL facility near Cowdenbeath.

Residents woke to flaring and smoke belching from the elevated stack.

Speculation that one of the plants may have been struck by lightning have been denied by both operators.

Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath SNP MP Neale Hanvey described the incident as regrettable but necessary in the wake of significant disruption across the kingdom.

“Amid the thunderstorm last night there was a need for elevated flaring at Mossmorran,” he said.

“While this is regrettable, we must remember that short-term flaring is an important safety measure and, as I understand it, flaring was initiated in line with safety and operational procedures.

“The impact of last night’s storm has led to significant disruption this morning, we we’ve seen from the scenes at Pettycur Bay and Victoria Hospital car park, among others, and Mossmorran is no different.

“The job now, at Mossmorran and across Fife, is to tackle the damage caused by the flooding and lightning strikes and their impact on water and electricity supplies.”

Mr Hanvey said both Shell and ExxonMobil had been in touch to update him on the situation.

A number of people living near the plant contacted Sepa, with many saying the flare was lighting up the sky and turning the lightning pink.

Residents said vibrations and a rumbling noise were coming for the facility during much of Wednesday.

Shell UK NGL plant manager Craig Burnett said: “We are taking measures to minimise the flaring and any disturbance and we are working hard to return to normal operations.

“We have informed the regulator Sepa of the situation.”

Jacob McAlister, manager of ExxonMobil’s Fife Ethylene Plant, added: “As a direct result of the extreme weather and associated electrical impact, we have experienced a process upset.

“As part of the plant’s safety and operational procedures, we are using our elevated flares.

“Our team are working to evaluate requirements to return to normal operations and to minimise the time in the flare.

“We stress that the use of the flare is completely safe but we apologise for any concern or disruption caused.”

Sepa confirmed its officers had attended the site.

A spokesperson said: “Sepa is responding to elevated flaring at the Mossmorran complex, caused by a loss of power overnight due to the extreme weather conditions.

“Officers are being deployed to the area to assess impacts on the community.

“Sepa’s air quality and noise monitoring remains in place.”

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