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ExxonMobil has insisted it remains committed to delivering £140 million worth of improvements to its site at Mossmorran, despite seeking an eight-month extension to complete the work.
The operator of the Fife Ethylene Plant, which has been subject of complaints about noise and flaring at the site, says problems with the resourcing and delivery of materials and equipment and the movement of staff means the investment programme must now extend well into 2021.
The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) has warned ExxonMobil about noise, light and air pollution during flaring episodes, which sees excess gas burnt off as a safety measure and can be seen right across Eastern Scotland, with one incident even going through the courts.
“While it is disappointing that we cannot complete the programme over the original planned schedule, our priority is the health and safety of all involved and that the recent challenging times have significantly impacted schedules for many projects all over the world,” a spokesperson for ExxonMobil noted.
“We will work towards completing this programme as soon as it is practical to do so.
“Our plant continues to operate safely and to the highest regulatory standards, and existing annual maintenance activities will continue to maintain those safe operations during this timeframe.”
Scottish Greens Mid Scotland and Fife MSP Mark Ruskell said: “The delays to the investment programme at this plant because of coronavirus was unfortunate, but now we see the operator wants local communities to endure another eight months of pollution from this fossil fuel relic.
“SEPA are already seeking prosecution at the Crown Office, so you would have thought Exxonmobil would have at least been motivated by that to make vital improvements to its plant as quickly as possible.
“It claims safety concerns during the pandemic have led to the delays, but what about the safety of those who endure sleepless nights during flaring episodes?
“SEPA must hold firm and not allow any more than a couple of months delay to the completion of the flare tip upgrade.
“The communities impacted in Fife need a safer, cleaner future with new jobs in alternative industries, not be endlessly strung along by those who want to maximise oil and gas extraction, whatever the cost.”
Sepa is said to be considering the request.