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An investigation has been launched by the UK’s health and safety watchdog into a prolonged gas leak at the Mossmorran chemical plant.
Following a visit to the Fife plant, inspectors from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) confirmed a probe is under way after it was discovered that highly-flammable ethane had been leaking from damaged pipes at the complex for a “number of weeks”.
HSE said the leak was discovered on 21 May, just days after a separate propane leak was reported on 17 May at the Braefoot Bay marine terminal operated jointly by oil and gas giants ExxonMobil and Shell.
The site, which includes an Ethylene plant operated by ExxonMobil and a gas plant run by Shell, has also come in for criticism from nearby residents in recent years over excessive flaring.
READ MORE: Fury as Mossmorran chemical plant flares again
Speaking to independent media outlet The Ferret, an HSE spokesperson said: “HSE inspectors conducting a routine inspection identified a leak from an ethane pipe.
“Initial enquiries indicated this had been ongoing for a number of weeks and was being monitored by the operator. HSE has however launched a full investigation into the causes of the leak including any failures of the management systems used by the operator.”
The SNP’s Annabelle Ewing, MSP for the Cowdenbeath constituency, commented: “My constituents who live in the local area are rightly worried about the litany of failings at Mossmorran.
“They deserve reassurance and, quite frankly, ExxonMobil, having already severely blotted their copy book with a number of unplanned flarings, have not exactly covered themselves in glory with this latest episode.”
In reference to the deadly Bhopal gas tragedy, which claimed the lives of thousands of people in Madhya Pradesh, India, in 1984, Ms Ewing issued a separate statement warning that something needed to be done “before Fife suffers its very own Bhopal”.
Mark Ruskell, Green MSP for Fife, added. “The news that ethane has been leaking from the plant for weeks is shocking.
“My constituents are rapidly losing patience with the operators and will expect HSE to take the necessary enforcement action urgently.”
Stuart Neill, ExxonMobil’s external affairs manager, has moved to assure local residents that the leakage has been dealt with.
“This issue has now been fully rectified,” he told The Courier.
“The pipe in question is used to inject an additive we use to keep our furnaces running efficiently.
“The leak was extremely small and was constantly monitored and managed as part of our robust risk management systems.
“A full repair schedule was devised and completed safely and to the highest engineering standard.
“We continually work with the HSE to ensure safe operations at all times.”