SITE operators at Mossmorran have apologised to the public as local politicians call for a probe into another incident of prolonged flaring at the plant last weekend.
A gas leak last Friday prompted ExxonMobil Chemical Ltd, operators of Fife Ethylene Plant (FEP), near Cowdenbeath, to flare as a safety precaution.
It is the third incident of flaring this year after two incidents of thick black plumes of smoke filling the air in June, prompting local communities and politicians to call for action.
Lesley Laird, MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, said: “There has been a loss in confidence in the flaring process – the light, noise pollution and smell emitted from the plant has caused great disruption to the local community.
“There needs to be a root and branch review of why flaring keeps happening.”
The flaring began on Friday, October 27 at 5pm, with ExxonMobil saying that the process was an “essential part of the plant’s safety systems” with no danger to the public or its employees.
Craig McCafferty, process manager at FEP for ExxonMobil Chemical, said: “We apologise to the local community for the continued flaring. It is unfortunate, but not unusual, for issues to arise when restarting complex industrial processes of this kind, and I would like to assure residents that we are doing all we can to minimise any disturbance and to return the plant to normal operations as soon as possible.”
An instrumentation issue in the early hours of Monday meant that the process to re-start normal operations at the Fife Ethylene Plant was delayed.
That issue was resolved by Monday lunchtime and the process to re-start the plant resumed, with flaring ending at 11.54pm on Monday.
Complaints were made to the operators by the public as they reported noise, vibration and bright light complaints.
Mark Ruskell, Mid Scotland and Fife MSP, slammed the site operators for showing “contempt” towards local residents affected by the latest shutdown.
He said: “This latest incident once again shows the contempt the operators hold neighbouring communities who have flooded me with complaints.
“Exxon Mobil state that the flaring poses no danger to local communities yet the noise, bright light and vibration that comes with the flaring process makes it virtually impossible to get a good night’s sleep.
“It’s time for the Scottish Government and SEPA to take serious enforcement action to ensure that the wellbeing of those living in the shadow of Mossmorran is given greater priority than Exxon Mobil’s shareholders.
“The operators are already under a legal investigation from SEPA following an earlier incident this year. There is also a complete lack of transparency in the operation of stakeholder liaison groups with minutes of meetings now removed from SEPA’s website.
“After decades of disruption, this incident raises major concerns about whether the site in its current state is fit for purpose to run on till 2030.”
A SEPA spokesperson said: “Flaring is required to enable a controlled shutdown of the plant and allow the plant to restart safely. We will be following up with the operator in order to understand what actions they intend to take.”