CASES of flaring at Mossmorran have risen by 364 per cent in the past decade.
Fresh figures published by the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) show the number of incidents at the Fife Ethylene Plant have risen from 39 in 2008 to 181 in 2016.
The volume of gas flared in 2016 was also 10,000 tonnes more than eight years ago.
As a result, the petrochemical plant has become Scotland’s second-largest carbon dioxide emitter.
Mark Ruskell, Green MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife, is calling for greater transparency from plant operators ExxonMobil.
He said West Fifers had expressed their concerns to him after prolonged flaring from June to October in 2017.
“This is the first time this flaring data has been made public and it makes for sobering reading for communities,” he said.
“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 four-fold in less than a decade there are some serious questions that need answering.
“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.”
A spokesperson for ExxonMobil stated their investment in the plant’s future carried the risk of extended periods of flaring.
They said: “Fife Ethylene Plant (FEP) is one of the most modern and efficient plants of its type in Europe, and we conduct continuous maintenance to ensure safe and environmentally-responsible operations of the plant.
“Every few years, we conduct more intensive maintenance utilising the latest technologies.
“This investment in the plant’s future operations carries the occasional need for longer than normal periods of flaring in order to enable the planned maintenance work to be completed safely. FEP’s largest emissions correspond to years in which such planned maintenance has taken place – and SEPA’s figures reflect this.
“Flaring is safe – the flaring equipment is designed specifically to handle excess hydrocarbons safely.
“It works in a similar manner to a safety valve on a central heating boiler and is an established precautionary mechanism used worldwide in petrochemical plants (such as FEP) and refineries, to help reduce gas pressure from the plant by safely processing hydrocarbons.
“We regret any concern that flaring may cause. We minimise flaring where possible, and make every effort to restore operations as quickly as we can.”
The spokesperson added: “We continue to meet the highest standards of regulation.
“Since 1989, a programme of emissions monitoring, control and reduction has been in place.
“Testing by Fife Council’s Independent Air Quality Monitoring Review Group has consistently concluded over the years that the operations of FEP continue to pose no significant risk to the health of members of the local community.
“Regular studies by Fife Council’s Independent Air Quality Review Group confirm the plant operates within the strict limits set by the independent regulator.
“Over the 28 years that it has operated, the group has consistently recorded acceptable air quality in the communities around FEP.”