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A SPECIFIC Just Transition plan for the Mossmorran petrochemical plant would save hundreds of jobs and boost attempts to reach ambitious net zero targets, new research has found.
The plant in Fife, operated by Exxon Mobil and Shell, is one of Scotland’s biggest polluters. In October 2020, Mossmorran emitted up to 13,800 tonnes of CO2 through flaring.
Identified as the third worst polluter in the country, Mossmorran has an uncertain long-term future as business moves away from plastic-based products created at the plant due to environmental grounds.
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The report, commissioned by the Scottish Greens, argues that the plant must abandon its current business model and urgently pivot to creating skilled green jobs to secure the future of the local economy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Concerns were also raised over plans for the plant to rely on carbon capture storage (CCS) on site to bring down its emissions. The report stated that “all scenarios for ethylene production are vulnerable”, adding: “Relying on CCS to capture all emissions at the site and upstream poses the biggest exposure to risk.”
The study – A Meaningfully Just Transition for Mossmorran: The Case for a Site-Specific Just Transition Process – looks at global pressures on the site, its impact on greenhouse gas emissions, and a workforce driven Just Transition.
The report explained: “It is currently unclear how planning for a transition at Mossmorran fits into national or sectoral transition plans.
“Calls for a just transition board specific to the site in 2020 were deemed not appropriate by Scottish Government because of ongoing investigations and legal action on the part of SEPA. It is imperative that planning – with representation from and accountability to trade unions and people who live and work in Mossmorran – begins as soon as possible.”
There are around 250 stable direct jobs currently at Mossmorran, coupled with a fluctuating and sometimes higher number of staff employed as contractors.
“Pay, benefits, and safety at these roles is protected by robust agreements, and the engineering contractor workforce has a varied and transferable skills base.
“These same workers are also well-organised in bargaining structures that could help facilitate detailed planning and cooperation with industry on a site and national level, with unions involved that have recently supported worker-led planning at factories around the country.”
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Mark Ruskell, MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife who commissioned the report, argued that Fife needs a specific Just Transition plan in a similar vein to the north east, the home of the oil and gas industry.
Ruskell said: “Mossmorran has been a living nightmare for residents who for far too long have felt under siege from their noisy neighbour with its Mordor-esque flaring and fears over safety while also being Scotland’s third largest climate polluter.
“Equally everyone is aware it supports jobs both directly and indirectly, which is why I felt it necessary to commission this report to look at the long term viability of the site, its impacts on Scotland’s net zero targets and the future.
“What the report has identified is clear possible future pathways to a decarbonised Mossmorran and all the benefits that would bring, if the current operators, workers, government and communities commit to engaging meaningfully.”
Ruskell said that without action now, the plant could seriously impact on the Scottish Government’s ambitious climate targets.
He added: “In essence, what we want to see at Mossmorran is a site-specific Just Transition Plan, a Fife focused version of what we are seeing for the oil and gas industry in the North-East.
“This report underlines how an unmanaged decline at the site could be devastating for workers. Instead, it offers at least five alternative core pathways to decarbonisation.
“These range from completely diversifying or converting the site to new industrial use, using electrified processes with no carbon capture, to other alternatives including becoming a hub for green hydrogen and other energy products.
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“It is also clear the Scottish Government will struggle to hit its legal net zero targets for 2030 and 2045 without doing something about the huge volumes of greenhouse gas emissions that make this plant one of the worst not just in Scotland, but the UK.”
Ruskell said the report was “groundbreaking” as it identified for the first time a sustainable future for Mossmorran is “absolutely viable”.
The petrochemical plants at Mossmorran include Shell’s Natural Gas Liquids plant and Exxonmobil’s Ethylene plant.
Both are located near the former mining village of Cowdenbeath and have been in operation since the 1980s.
In recent years climate campaigners have protested at the gates of the site over its impact on the environment, while it is also under scrutiny by the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) over a number of breaches involving mainly excessive flaring.