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An environment agency has sent officers to the Mossmorran chemical plant after unexpected flaring overnight.
People living near the Fife Ethylene Plant (FEP) reacted angrily on social media to the flaring at 3.30am, which woke some residents up.
The flaring was described by some on Twitter as “unacceptable”, “ridiculous” and “a disgrace”, with the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) now assessing whether permit conditions have been breached.
Officers from the agency were sent to record community impacts at five locations, but noted there had been no breach of air quality standards.
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Chris Dailly, Sepa head of environmental performance, said: “Whilst limited, controlled flaring is an authorised and important safety feature of industrial sites, we know it has been happening too often at Mossmorran and the community impacts are often significant.
“That’s why we have referred ExxonMobil Chemical Limited to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) for consideration of prosecution related to the Easter 2019 flaring event, and why we have required the installation of noise reducing flare tips by May 8 2021 followed by the installation of ground flares.
“Whilst we don’t know yet from the company the cause of the latest flaring or expected duration, we will provide further updates as soon as further information becomes available.
“In addition to our fixed air quality and noise monitoring points across the area, officers are deployed to record community impacts at five locations surrounding the site.
“Officers have noted community noise impacts and our monitors continue to demonstrate no breach of air quality standards.
“Our work now across the incident will determine whether there has been a breach of permit conditions and what our next steps will be in line with our published enforcement policy.”
A spokesman for ExxonMobil said: “Our engineers remain on site working to resolve the isolated technical issue with one of our machines.
“As production at FEP is a single connected process, diverting some gas safely via the flare allows us to keep other major machines in operation and return more quickly to normal operations.
“We have taken a number of actions to significantly reduce the size of the elevated flare, including maximising the use of ground flares, and will continue to do so wherever we can.
“We stress that the use of our flare is completely safe but we apologise for any disturbance caused by its operation.
“Our commitment to reducing the frequency and impact of flaring is well documented and underlined by an additional £140 million investment due to commence in April 2021 to upgrade key infrastructure and introduce new technologies.”