‘It is like living in the hinterland of hell’ — decommission of Mossmorran chemical plant demanded during more flaring

A call has been made for Mossmorran chemical plant to be decommissioned as people living nearby endured days of flaring.

Councillor Mary Lockhart said “enough is enough” and that operations should cease at Fife Ethylene Plant and Fife NGL amid concerns about the impact on health and the environment.

Watchdog SEPA said it was disappointed flaring, which began on Friday morning, had persisted through the weekend and warned that environmental compliance was non-negotiable.

Ms Lockhart said: “Enough is enough. ExxonMobil should have its operating licence revoked.”

Unplanned flaring occurs during process upsets, with the latest episode the result of a safety mechanism shutting down the site’s main compressor.

The huge flame, which can be seen from miles around, and associated rumbling noise cause disruption to residents in surrounding towns and villages.

There are also concerns about the frequency of unplanned flaring at the plant near Cowdenbeath and pollutant emissions.

However, ExxonMobil insisted the plant meets national and EU standards and stressed independent testing over many years had shown no link between flaring at Mossmorran and air quality in local communities.

Ms Lockhart toured villages in her Lochgelly, Cardenden and Benarty ward and said: “The upper part of Lochgelly looked like a William Blake illustration to Dante’s Inferno.

“It is like living in the hinterland of hell. Flames, smoke and noise, and vibrations which were rattling china in my house six miles away as the crow flies.”

She told The Courier: “It became my view some time ago that the plant should be decommissioned once and for all.

“The operating licence should be suspended and not subsequently renewed.”

Despite allegations from community group Mossmorran Action Group that its monitoring fell short of that pledged, SEPA said specialist teams had worked round the clock over the weekend as part of an “ongoing regulatory investigation”.

Ian Buchanan, head of regulatory services East region, said: “Flaring is necessary to ensure the continued safe operation of the plant, but the impact must be mitigated.

“We’re disappointed that flaring has continued across the weekend and with the impacts this has had on local communities.

“We are clear that environmental compliance is non-negotiable and the air quality and noise monitoring SEPA staff are undertaking is to assess impact of flaring and inform our future regulatory approach with the site.

“Whilst currently restricted in what we are able to communicate at this time, to avoid any prejudice to any potential enforcement action, our officers are speaking with people in local communities and our 24 hour pollution line (0800 80 70 60) continues to receive calls.

“We’re also sharing as much information as possible on our dedicated Mossmorran hub, sepa.org.uk/mossmorran.”

ExxonMobil said it expected flaring to end and normal operations to resume overnight on Sunday.

Sonia Bingham, plant manager, said: “As a responsible operator we remain committed to restoring normal operations as soon as possible, and my team is making every effort to minimise any disturbance to the community.

“Safety and environmental protection remain our highest priorities.

“We recognise that flaring can cause concern to local residents.

“I apologise to the local communities and would like to assure them that we are doing everything we can to minimise any disturbance or inconvenience.”

“Flaring is a vital safety precaution for plants like FEP, and there is no danger to local
communities or our workforce.

“We continue to keep SEPA fully informed as we progress through this process, and are doing all we can to advise the local community.”

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Resident-led action group seeking redress from the long-term social, health and environmental impacts from the Mossmorran facilities in Central Fife operated by ExxonMobil (Fife Ethylene Plant) and Shell (Fife NGL).


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