Mossmorran flaring: Maintenance failures and wrong bolts fitted

SEPA has shone light on the maintenance failures which led to unscheduled flaring at Mossmorran last summer – an incident which saw a final written warning issued to petrochemical plant operators, Shell and Mossmorran.

The environmental protection agency has provided a copy of the letter containing its findings which it sent to the company owners.

Fife Free Press coverage of flaring at Mossmorran, 2017

The document shows that the extended flaring, which caused huge disruption to local communities in June 2017, was due to the breakdown of a pump, while the stand-by was being repaired.

It also revealed the pump failed because the wrong bolts had been fitted by a supplier, while the plant was culpable for a lack of spare parts and failing to maintain the device within a reasonable time.

SEPA said the final written warning brought to a close its specific investigation into the flaring of June 2017.

It has still to issue any findings over further incidents last October and March 2018 which sparked huge anger among campaign groups, politicians and local residents.

The documents were sent to the Fife Free Press in response to a request for a copy of the full report – something Alex Rowley MSP has called for.

Friday also saw the first the round table Mossmorran meeting in Kirkcaldy, organised by Lesley Laird MP.

It brought together politicians from all parties as well as campaign groups in a bid to get to the root of long-standing flaring and safety concerns at Fife Ethylene plant.

It was chaired by Professor Wilson Sibbett of the Mossmorran and Braefoot Bay Independent Air Quality Monitoring Group.

Shell, ExxonMobil and SEPA, the Institute of Occupational Medicine and Fife Council, representatives from all political parties, Mossmorran Action Group and local community councils attended.

Ms Laird said: “I’d like to especially acknowledge the participation of community representatives who, despite years of frustration, approached the meeting in a constructive way.

“It was also encouraging to hear Shell and ExxonMobil’s willingness to engage with the community and address their concerns.’’

She said ‘‘key questions’’ still needed answers – including health concerns, the condition and maintenance of the plant, the collection of real-time data when flaring occurs, and assessment of the cumulative impact of air and light pollution as well as noise vibration on neighbouring communities.

She added: “This is simply a starting point.

‘‘These issues will not be fixed overnight, but others, such as communication between Mossmorran and communities can be progressed quickly.

“The meeting clearly showed that doing business in a certain way has long since gone, and shone a light on the fact that all parties connected to Mossmorran need to do better in terms of engaging and working with communities.’’

Concerns remain over the length of time it took to investigate the June 2017 flaring – a fdull ten months lapsed before SEPA’s actions were annolunced last week, and the agency could give no timescale into the two other unscheduled flarings.

It explained the delay, stating: ‘‘ In order to fully examine the root cause of the flaring and the extent and impact on local communities and the environment, this investigation has taken time to complete.

‘‘This included a thorough assessment of site operations of both ExxonMobil and Shell and extensive engagement, including formal statements from residents in the surrounding communities.

In terms of further sanctions, it could refer the plant operators to the Procurator Fiscal for prosecution.

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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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