THE weekend period of flaring at the Fife Ethylene Plant have brought concerns from a number of sources in the locality.
The flaring lasted from early on Friday through to the early hours of Monday as repairs were carried out and the re-starting of the production mechanism at the Mossmorran operation took place.
Kelty and Cowdenbeath councillor Alex Campbell has written to the Scottish Government about the lengthy period of flaring and also about the condition of the facility outside Cowdenbeath.
Meanwhile Lochgelly resident Paul McGowan, who lives in McKenzie Crescent, which looks down on the plant on the other side of A92, has also queried the Scottish Government on safety issues.
Following on from the latest episode of unplanned flaring at the Mossmorran Chemical Plant, following a compressor being shut down on Friday, Cowdenbeath and Kelty Councillor Campbell has written to the Cabinet Secretary for the Environment at Holyrood asking if she is able to give assurances on the safety of the plant.
The Labour councillor said: “I am concerned at this latest unplanned flaring as it is becoming more regular that the plant is forced to flare for safety reasons when something goes wrong, suggesting that more is going wrong at the plant. “ExxonMobil has flared 165,861 tonnes of gas in 670 events between 2008 and 2016, while Shell has flared 21,162 tonnes in 753 events.
“Overall both companies have flared 187,023 tonnes of gas in 1,423 events and this does not include the latest or the previous events from June and October in 2017 that are still under investigation by SEPA”.
He continued: “This plant was refurbished so it could go well past its life expectancy from the time when it was built but more and more questions are being asked about the number of times it is experiencing breakdowns that require it to burn of gas.
“I know there has been an improvement in communications from the plant and SEPA but the real questions about the operating capacity of the site do not seem to be being addressed and this needs to happen so I am asking the Government in Edinburgh to get answers when it comes to the safety and operations of the site”.
Concerned Lochgelly resident Paul McGowan, from McKenzie Crescent said: “The whole crux of the matter is, it was understood when the plant was commissioned nearly 30 years ago, that flaring was a ‘last point of no return’ safety feature.
“Why else would ExxonMobil agree to lose millions of pounds by burning it in mid air?
“The logic only makes sense if ExxonMobil recognised that they would only do this in small number of cases and only if it really warranted it.
“It doesn’t take a statistician to know that as the plant has got older so has the number of flaring incidents grown and therefore the only conclusion that can be intelligently taken is that ExxonMobil are more willing to accept the loss by flaring than by securing capital investment and upgrading the plant”.
Sonia Bingham, Plant Manager at FEP for ExxonMobil Chemical said: “I would like to apologise to the local community for the unplanned flaring over the past few days. “My operations team at FEP has worked tirelessly over the weekend to restore normal operations to the plant and kept SEPA fully informed throughout the event.”
She added: “I know that flaring can cause concern and inconvenience, but it is a vital safety system and we never flare without good reason.
“We have made every effort to minimise any impact on the local community, and while I recognise that it can be frustrating to local residents, I am grateful to them for their patience and understanding.”
Ms Bingham confirmed that ExxonMobil Chemical will be conducting a thorough review into the flaring event.