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SEPA have received 380 reports from local residents concerned and impacted by ongoing flaring at Mossmorran.
The environment watchdog started to receive calls at around 3.30am on Sunday morning that ExxonMobil’s Fife Ethylene Plant was flaring once again.
SEPA is investigating whether the incident is a breach of the plant operator’s permit conditions.
SEPA said on Sunday afternoon that it understands, “the very real potential for community impacts and are assessing whether there has been a breach of permit conditions.”
And, last night (Monday), the watchdog announced that they were waiting on a full, detailed report from ExxonMobill on the incident.
SEPA’s four remote monitoring points around the site, at Lochgelly, Auchtertool, Donibristle and Little Raith continue to capture data and specialist scientific and environment protection officers continue to deploy to record community impacts and gather information, data and evidence.
Officers have noted community noise and monitors continue to demonstrate no breach of air quality standards.
Chris Dailly, Head of Environmental Performance at SEPA, said: “Whilst its again important to stress that limited, controlled flaring is an authorised and important safety feature of industrial sites, we’ve heard clearly from over 380 reports to SEPA of the impact this further flaring event is having on local communities.
“Having referred ExxonMobil Chemical Limited to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) for consideration of prosecution related to Easter 2019 flaring, we remain frustrated by the frequency of flaring and the flow of information from the operator.
“We are investigating whether there has been a breach of permit conditions which would inform our next steps in line with our published Enforcement Policy.
“We are clear on our expectations of the operator, including requiring the installation of noise reducing flare tips followed by the installation of ground flares. Moreover, the operator must take steps to make flaring the exception rather than routine and if they will not, SEPA will consider further options to ensure they do so.
“Updates will be available on social media and sepa.org.uk/mossmorran and we urge the public to report community impacts at SEPA.org.uk/report”.
ExxonMobil released a statement at around 8.45pm on Sunday evening stating that engineers were on site to replace a faulty part in its compressor.
Plant manager Jacob McAlister, said: “Our engineers are progressing with the replacement of a faulty part in our compressor, and will then move to safely re-start through this evening (Sunday) and into tomorrow.
“During this time, we will continue working to minimise elevated flaring wherever possible. We will provide a further update when the compressor is re-started and we have returned to normal production.
“We understand that our elevated flare can cause frustration, but it ensures we maintain safe operations and is not something we would ever use without good reason.”
They have since released a further statement stating that the faulty part on the compressor was replaced and checks were being conducted to, “ensure we return to normal production safely and reliably,”.
Jacob McAlister, plant manager, said: “We do understand community frustration, but we assure you that we are working round the clock to resolve this matter and re-start the machine as soon as possible.
“During the re-start procedure, you may seem some fluctuations in the elevated flare but we will take all steps to minimise the size of the flare wherever possible.
“As always, let us know if you have any questions.”
The latest case of flaring has prompted concerns to be raised by local campaigners such as James Glen, chair of Mossmorran Action Group (MAG).
He said: “This is the second time during a severe storm that mossmorran has to resort to emergency flaring. Last time it was caused by flooding in an electrical storm. What is it this time?
“Once agin Exxon is hiding behind a “process upset” and local communities are left with the terrifying experience of emergency flaring in an unrestricted time frame.
“If the plant cant cope with Scottish weather, should it be operating at all?”