Mossmorran operators ExxonMobil have claimed it is “near-impossible” flaring at the site had caused air quality issues in nearby communities.
Environmental engineer Kylie Bishop said extensive studies by independent consultants had shown there was no cause for concern regarding air quality near the Cowdenbeath plant.
Addressing members of Fife Council’s environment and protective services committee, she said: “What they concluded was, even in the worst case scenario, it was not possible to cause local air quality issues in surrounding communities, mainly due to uplift experienced from the heat from the stack.
“We feel confident there is no environmental risk or risk to health. It’s highly unlikely, near-impossible.”
Ms Bishop said the independent experts had built a miniature Mossmorran plant to run multiple scenarios with all the components that could be emitted before releasing their conclusions.
Her comments came as it was revealed the Health and Safety Executive is still working closely with Exxon to ensure its boilers are ready for service before the plant reopens.
ExxonMobil’s external affairs manager Stuart Neil said the body was working “step-by-step” with the company to make sure its restart schedule met regulatory standards.
The Fife Ethylene Plant near Cowdenbeath has been closed since September following the failure of two of its three boilers.
It is expected to reopen after Christmas and communities have been warned to expect some flaring from the factory’s stack as operations resume.
A multi-million pound maintenance programme aimed at reducing unplanned flaring is ongoing and Ms Bishop said the action being taken would significantly lessen the impact of light, noise and vibration experienced by local people during flaring events.
Regarding vibrations, she said: “Analysis has identified what we believe is the root cause and that will enable us to identify what we could put in place to mitigate what’s causing it.”
Some of the mitigating measures were tested during unplanned flaring in July and Ms Bishop said the company received no complaints from the community.
She said the measures also reduced the duration and the volume of flaring.
A new flare tip to be installed in the summer is expected to further reduce the size of the flare.
In all, 14 actions for improvements will be carried out.
An NHS Fife report released earlier this month concluded there was no evidence the plant had caused higher than expected cancer rates or significant air quality impact on nearby communities.
It said, however, that sleep disturbance, annoyance, anxiety and stress caused by the noise, light and smell could lead to, or aggravate, ill health.