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SEPA’S Mossmorran investigation is in its final stages as the agency’s regulation drives investment to make flaring “the exception rather than routine” at the site outside Cowdenbeath.
And the organisation has assured it will be watching the re-start of the ethylene plant closely in January.
The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) on Thursday issued an update on the progress of its regulatory investigation into “unacceptable” flaring by ExxonMobil Chemical Limited during April.
The agency also outlined the steps it continues to take to tackle the unacceptable impacts of flaring from the operation of the Mossmorran facility.
The agency said that a small number of interviews remain to be conducted and a further update will be provided in the new year.
During the year SEPA has served a series of permit variations to lock in compliance at Mossmorran and reduce flaring impacts. The operating permit variations served on ExxonMobil Chemical Limited and Shell U.K. Limited have required both operators to achieve ‘Best Available Techniques’ in the shortest timeframe possible.
A SEPA spokesperson said: “The variations require investments in equipment that reduces the impacts of flaring on local communities when flaring is necessary. Flaring, an important safety feature of industrial facilities, will become the “exception rather than routine” and new infrastructure will address the issues that cause most disturbance to local people.
“SEPA expects investment in noise-reducing flare tips and fully enclosed ground flare technologies at Mossmorran and that these will significantly reduce the impact on the rare occasions when flaring is necessary.
“Noise reducing flare tips are to be installed by the operators within the following timescales: ExxonMobil Chemical Limited in 2020 and
Shell U.K. Limited in 2021.
“ExxonMobil Chemical Limited has committed to optimising timescales to install new ground flares – which will significantly address impacts from flaring. SEPA welcomes the £140 million investment announced by ExxonMobil and the assurances that reliability and performance will improve.
“Meanwhile Shell U.K. Limited must provide SEPA with a project plan by the end of January 2020 for their future use of ground flares.”
SEPA continues to monitor air quality around Mossmorran. Regular reports have been published on our Mossmorran Hub and the results from these consistently show that levels of particulate matter are well within daily (UK) Air Quality Standards.
The spokesperson added: “Currently, SEPA has air quality monitoring equipment at Lochgelly, Auchtertool and Donibristle. These locations ensure that we can monitor in local communities and take account of changes in wind direction. It also means we can monitor both upwind and downwind of the Mossmorran Complex.
“SEPA is planning for these monitors to stay in place whilst the investments are made at Mossmorran. SEPA is also working alongside partner agencies with air quality responsibilities to assess future requirements”.
Noise monitoring has also been carried out by SEPA in response to unplanned flaring.
On the forthcoming re-start of the FEP it was stated that ExxonMobil Chemical Limited has confirmed that ‘the safe, responsible and considered re-start’ of the Plant at Mossmorran, after the boiler upgrade, will now occur in January.
SEPA has been advised of limited, low-volume flaring at Mossmorran but the spokesperson added: ” We will continue to monitor air quality throughout.
Further to detailed dialogue with the operator, SEPA welcomes the commitment to pause re-start operations during the New Year period, and to work to minimise the impact of those operations on into the New Year.
The spokesperson concluded: “In addition to an active programme of communications from the company, SEPA’s specialist regulatory and scientific officers will fully monitor the re-start. We’ll provide regular updates during the re-start and will publish monitoring information as quickly as possible on sepa.org.uk/mossmorran
“SEPA will continue take the action needed to ensure that the operators of the Mossmorran Complex (both ExxonMobil Chemical Limited and Shell UK Limited) make the investment needed to address the root causes of unacceptable flaring and mitigations.
“We would like to thank everyone who has taken the time to help us understand the impacts of this flaring during our active investigation”.