Mossmorran: Flaring to be 'exception rather than the norm' as £140m upgrade starts next month

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A £140m upgrade of Fife Ethylene Plant at Mossmorran is set to start next month - and it should mean greater reliability and less flaring.

ExxonMobil Chemical Limited’s plans will see 1,000 workers deliver over 300,000 hours of work as part of a major investment at the site which has been the subject of growing opposition from campaigners and community groups after several unscheduled incidents of flaring.

The work will see the installation of a noise reducing flare tip this Spring.

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It will be followed by a fully enclosed ground flare that ExxonMobil has committed to install in 2022 - and the company says that cut the use of the elevated flare by 98%.

Unplanned flaring at Mossmorran petro chemical plant in Fife Sunday April 2019Unplanned flaring at Mossmorran petro chemical plant in Fife Sunday April 2019
Unplanned flaring at Mossmorran petro chemical plant in Fife Sunday April 2019

The move follows final warning letters in 2018 from SEPA - the Scottish Environment Protection Agency - a submission of a report to the Crown Office for consideration of prosecution in relation to the flaring at Mossmorran in April 2019, and a series of stringent regulatory requirements and permit variations on both operators requiring defined actions.

SEPA has specialist monitoring, compliance, enforcement and support staff involved in work on the industrial complex and the agency has committed to further strengthen the regulation and monitoring of both sites across the investment period in response to the agency’s peer review by the Irish Environmental Protection Agency, which was published today.

It was commissioned by SEPA in May 2020 to share good practice and advise on any further actions that may be taken to drive compliance at the Mossmorran site.

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ExxonMobil Chemical plant at Mossmorran, Fife.ExxonMobil Chemical plant at Mossmorran, Fife.
ExxonMobil Chemical plant at Mossmorran, Fife.

The review formed of a package of measures announced by SEPA including an independent technical assessment of the ground flare installation timeline from ExxonMobil Chemical Limited.

Terry A’Hearn, XEPA chief executive, said: “We’ve been clear that compliance with Scotland’s environmental laws is non-negotiable, that flaring at the Mossmorran complex was unacceptable and must become the exception rather than routine.

“We’ve used the full force of our powers, from regulatory requirements and operating permit variations to final warning Letters and submission of a report to the Crown Office for consideration of prosecution.

“We’ve also been clear that our actions present a clear pathway to compliance for the industrial complex and that what mattered to communities was actions rather than words.”Mr A’Hearn said the £140m investment and installation of noise reducing flare tip were “major milestones” to compliance.

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He added: “Communities across Fife have the right to a future where flaring is the exception rather than routine.

“Robust regulation takes time but through our work and the significant investment by site operators, hope and a clear pathway to compliance is now in sight for local communities.”

ExxonMobil said it had “pro-actively” sought to investigate and implement improvements.

A spokesman added: “’We were aware that SEPA had invited guidance from the Irish EPA and support any move for more effective, consistent and data-driven environmental regulation.

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“Our proposal to invest in a new enclosed ground flare that is designed to reduce the use of our elevated flare by 98% and make any required flaring much quieter and less visible, was volunteered to SEPA in April 2019.

“A project of this engineering magnitude cannot be implemented overnight and we welcome SEPA’s support of this project as it progresses to completion in 2022.

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