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FIFE residents have once again raised safety concerns after unplanned flaring at Mossmorran chemical plant.
ExxonMobil Chemical Limited raised the alarm about the incident at the site shortly before 3pm yesterday.
The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) said it understands the flaring is due to a trip of a major compressor, and initial reports suggest elevated flaring may continue overnight as the company works towards a safe restart.
Chris Dailly, Sepa’s head of environmental performance, said: “Having been clear that flaring must become the exception rather than routine, we’re disappointed that flaring by ExxonMobil Chemical Limited has occurred again so soon after the restart.
“Officers made immediate contact with the company and we understand that the flaring relates to a trip of a major compressor.
“In understanding that flaring is likely to continue overnight as the site moves to a safe restart, officers will continue to deploy and air and noise monitoring continues.
“Sepa is requiring a detailed briefing on the nature of the current incident and we expect the company to provide timely updates to the community.
“Whilst recognising that flaring is an important safety mechanism, this is a further reminder of why the short and medium-term steps being taken by Sepa to mitigate flaring is so critical, including noise-reducing flare tips in 2020/21 and bringing forward plans for fully enclosed ground flares.”
Sepa officers are responding and air and noise monitoring continues to be deployed.
In September 2019, the company announced a £140 million plan to reduce such occurrences and improve infrastructure at the plant.
That came after Sepa launched a formal investigation into unplanned flaring at the plant last April following hundreds of complaints from residents about a chemical smell and rumbling noise.
— Andy Catlin (@andycatlincom) March 4, 2020
But local councillor Linda Holt, of the Mossmorran Action Group, said: “Once again ExxonMobil is forced to resort to emergency flaring because something has gone badly wrong.
“As the ground shakes, and a huge bright flame amid clouds of black smoke looms over communities, they are expected to suffer in ignorance.
“Reassurances that the plant is ‘safe’ do not wash.”
A statement issued to the local community by the company read: “We have, unfortunately, experienced a trip on one of our major compressors. Our team is currently undertaking the necessary checks to begin a safe re-start.
“In order to keep the rest of the plant running and reduce total duration of flaring, we need to manage this process through our elevated flare.
“We are also working with our neighbours Shell to maximise ground flare capacity.
“The use of the flare is completely safe, and we will continue to keep you updated as we work our way through this process.
“We apologise for any inconvenience to our local communities.”