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Residents in central Fife have voiced their anger after yet another spell of flaring at the Fife Ethylene Plant at Mossmorran.
Locals reported “very loud booms” and a strong chemical smell to the south of the petrochemical works on Saturday morning, and the plant could be seen visibly flaring on a number of occasions.
Investigations are ongoing into recent periods of unplanned flaring at Mossmorran, and earlier this year SEPA received more than 900 complaints about prolonged flaring over six days in April which communities said caused light, noise and air pollution among other impacts.
A spokesperson for plant operator ExxonMobil apologised for the latest incident on Saturday morning.
“We are really sorry for the short perod of intermittent flaring earlier this morning,” it said.
“This was related to a small issue with a re-fridge unit.
“Our team took immediate steps to stop the flaring and minimise any community impact.”
Flaring generally happens when a problem has arisen and gas which cannot be processed properly is burned.
The process is regarded by industry experts as an important safety mechanism and is permitted through certain conditions.
Some people may have noticed that our ground flares are smoky at present. We are working on this now. Please be assured that there is no cause for concern. The ground flares are assisting with our operational processes.
— exxonmobil_fep (@exxonmobil_fep) June 29, 2019
Saturday’s incident – which also involved extensive ground flaring – comes just a day after the Mossmorran Working Group met with representatives from ExxonMobil and Shell who outlined plans to significantly reduce the impact of flaring on local communities.
Operators have pledged to invest a significant sum in new flare tips and the development of ground flares, and local Labour MP Lesley Laird described the meeting as a “real breakthrough”.
“One of the key commitments that we obtained was the financing of improvements in technology that will address many of the concerns that have been highlighted in terms of light and noise and vibration,” she said.
“The proof of course is always in how that is taken forward and how that is implemented and what it will really mean for people in their communities.
“So while we’ve made the breakthrough, there’s much work to be done in terms of ensuring that SEPA, the companies and Fife Council now work together to bring forward plans that are implemented with robust timescales and robust project management to make sure that these commitments can be met.”
James Glen, from the Mossmorran Action Group, commented: “Locals, out and about enjoying the glorious weather at the start of the school holidays, are anxiously watching the skies.
“They need to know if more flaring is likely at Mossmorran.
“The news about replacing flare tips for the elevated stack is positive, but we’ve been here before in 2012 when we were promised new flare tips would minimise impacts.”