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ExxonMobil has no plans to wind down its operations at Mossmorran in what campaigners have described as a “bombshell” for communities.
Campaigners including Mossmorran Action Group and Scottish Green MSP Mark Ruskell have called for a transition board to oversee the winding down of fossil-fuel burning at Fife Ethylene Plant (FEP).
But FEP’s plant manager Martin Burrell said there was growing demand for products made from petrochemicals.
And he said the plant near Cowdenbeath, which was opened in the mid 1980s, could still run for decades.
“Many of our facilities in Europe and elsewhere have been in operation for 50, 60, 70 years, and it may be a surprise to know that the Fife Ethylene Plant is actually one of the youngest plants that we have in Europe,” said Mr Burrell.
Mr Burrell and other ExxonMobil representatives met Cowdenbeath councillors in a virtual meeting this week.
Labour councillor Mary Lockhart highlighted the fact Shell had drawn up transition plans for the neighbouring Fife NGL Plant, based on a plant lifespan to 2050.
Mr Burrell said there was no transition document for FEP but plant bosses had “aspirations in that same timeline”.
He said ExxonMobil was looking at a 20-year timescale, depending on the availability of natural gas liquids as feedstock and demand for products.
He added: “Which typically is growing because it’s actually what society needs for food packaging, for medical products.
“There has been and continues to be good demand for our product and what we see working with our upstream partners, and Shell being part of that, is that there is a healthy supply of feed available to allow the unit to run profitably.”
James Glen, who chairs Mossmorran Action Group, described Mr Burrell’s response as a “bombshell”.
He said: “Exxon has absolutely no plans to wind down production or transition to less environmentally damaging operations.
“This will come as a bitter blow to communities who have hoped that an end was in sight to the risk and harms to their health and wellbeing which Mossmorran has been inflicting on them since 1985.”
Mr Glen said it was “truly incredible” that the plant manager had not “acknowledged climate change or the need to curb carbon emissions, when his plant is the third biggest emitter of CO2 in Scotland.”
He added: “All this has apparently been sanctioned by the Scottish Government, and makes a total mockery of their zero carbon plans.
“No wonder a new local community action group Actions Speak Louder than Words has been formed and is now protesting weekly outside the plant together with climate action groups for the operators to recognise the climate crisis and shut down their operations.”
According to the Scottish Greens, the latest flaring episodes at FEP produced the same amount of CO2 emissions as 9,200 people taking return flights between Glasgow and New York.
The plant is currently undergoing significant investment, with contractors recently appointed to design and build an enclosed ground flare, aimed at minimising light and noise pollution, and eliminating smoke emissions.
Mr Ruskell said: “We have legally binding targets in Scotland to achieve net-zero climate emissions by 2045, meeting that will require a monumental effort from companies like Exxon who’s business model currently relies on dumping climate-wrecking emissions into our atmosphere with very little consequences.
“I’m pleased Fife Council have taken up my call for a Just Transition board for the plant, but this must begin with the premise that Mossmorran must cut its emissions drastically or wind down operations. To do that will require co-operation of both the plant operators and the Scottish Government if it is to have any impact at all.”