Original Source: Source link
ExxonMobil is requesting an eight-month delay on the installation of noise-reducing equipment at its chemical plant in Fife due to coronavirus.
It has asked Scotland’s environmental regulator Sepa to postpone fitting flare tips at Mossmorran until August 2021.
A £140m investment programme to reduce the impact of flaring was due to be completed by the end of 2020.
Residents have complained of light pollution and noise during flaring.
The process of flaring involves burning off gas that cannot be processed. The site, which is shared by ExxonMobil Chemical Ltd and Shell Fife NGL, is used to produce ethylene.
Although the flaring technique is legally permitted, it causes significant light and noise pollution which the operator is obliged to minimise.
Last year, Sepa said it had received almost 1,400 complaints about the Mossmorran site.
The plant was closed from August last year until January to fix two of its three boilers.
MSP Mark Ruskell, the Scottish Greens’ environment and climate spokesman, 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.
“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.”
James Glen, spokesman for Mossmorran Action Group, said Exxon was “using Covid as an excuse” to delay implementing essential noise mitigation because “their only interest is in protecting their bottom line”.
“Communities are being exposed to such extreme levels of noise that residents are left terrified, condemned to sleepless nights, with their homes subject to visible vibration.
“Exxon’s deplorable record of skimping on maintenance continues to be under major investigation by HSE.
“For too long, regulators have allowed Exxon to get away with operations which harm their neighbours, and Sepa should now live up to its mantra that environmental compliance is non-negotiable.”
An ExxonMobil spokesman said the company remained committed to the delivery of its £140m additional investment programme.
“However, as a direct result of the global Covid-19 pandemic, the resourcing and delivery of materials and equipment, as well as the movement of personnel, have been significantly impacted,” he added. “This means that this programme of work must now extend into 2021.
“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. 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.”
Chris Dailly, head of environmental performance at Sepa, confirmed it had received an application from ExxonMobil Chemical Ltd seeking an extension to the the end of this year.
“Sepa is firmly focused on ensuring the company addresses the root causes of unacceptable flaring with a clear plan and pathway to compliance.” he said.
“Whilst disappointed by the application by ExxonMobil Chemical Limited, we recognise the current pandemic has significantly affected workplace practices and the supply of some equipment and materials, in line with public health restrictions.
“Sepa continues to work with the company to understand more about the reasons for the delay, and whether that is acceptable given the current public health emergency. This is likely to take a short number of weeks and we will ensure that local communities are kept fully informed in due course.”