GREEN MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife Mark Ruskell has called for greater transparency at the Mossmorran Fife Ethylene Plant as new figures reveal a 364% increase in flaring at the site since 2008.
Data published by the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) shows the incidents of flaring at the plant has gone up from 39 in 2008 to 181 in 2016, with the total volume of gas flared going up by over 10,000 tonnes.
This comes on the back of data released earlier this year which showed the plant is now the second biggest emitter of carbon dioxide in Scotland following the closure of Longannet power station.
Flaring at Mossmorran has come under renewed scrutiny this year following prolonged periods of unplanned flaring in June and October.
Mr Ruskell, who has been concerned with the flaring incidents at Mossmorran and the plans for the former Westfield Opencast site, said: “This is the first time this flaring data has been made public and it makes for sobering reading for communities.
“SEPA and the plant operators have repeatedly said flaring is part of the routine process at the plant, but when a ‘routine process’ increases over fourfold in less than a decade there are some serious questions that need answering”.
He added: “Burning off gas in such a visible way is obviously going to raise concerns about air pollution and climate change emissions, but on top of this local people repeatedly report to me the disturbance in their lives caused by noise, vibrations and light pollution during flaring incidents.
“I welcome this better data on flaring, but what we need to see next is a more focused assessment of how these wider impacts are affecting local communities.
“There are also still major concerns about the transparency of operations at the site and the relationship between the plant operators and the local community.
“The Community and Safety Committee, run by the plant operators, is supposed to be the main liaison group, but this committee meets behind closed doors and has a poor track record of publishing minutes. Local people have told me they have lost faith in this committee, so it’s time we revisit how the plant operators discharge their responsibility to those communities living around the site.”
Exxon/Mobil, who run the Fife Ethylene Plant, have always maintained that flaring is a safety mechanism which goes into action when there is a malfunction at the plant.
They also say that flaring does cost their operation money as it is burning off feed stock and it is only done if necessary.
The company also maintains that the Mossmorran plant is one of the most efficient of its type in Europe and the air quality reports around it have always been acceptable.