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A RADICAL plan to end the “Mordor-esque flaring” from Mossmorran and climate proof the site would help save the planet and hundreds of jobs.
That’s the claim from Mark Ruskell, the Scottish Green MSP for Fife, who said the gas plants have been a “living nightmare” for local residents but are also a major employer.
A new report recommends a specific just transition plan for Mossmorran, and for site operators Shell UK and ExxonMobil to abandon their current ways of working for a “cleaner, sustainable future”.
Mr Ruskell likened the site to the fiery hell in the Lord of the Rings and said: “Mossmorran has been a living nightmare for local residents in Fife 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.”
Shell UK run the Fife NGL Plant which separates natural gas liquids into propane, butane, ethane and gasoline for onward distribution and use.
ExxonMobil operate the Fife Ethylene Plant which converts the ethane into ethylene, the base material for the manufacture of plastics used in food packaging, medical equipment, car parts and many more products.
The companies employ around 250 people and there are also a fluctuating number of staff employed as contractors.
Mr Ruskell said the “ground-breaking” report, written by economist Sara Mahmoud, highlights an uncertain long term future for the plants as business turns away from plastics-based products on environmental grounds.
It recommends pivoting to skilled green jobs for the continued wellbeing of the local economy and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
He said there were five alternative pathways to decarbonisation, ranging 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”.
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The Scottish Government is wholly committed to a just transition that will help us meet our climate targets while supporting good, green jobs for our highly skilled workforce.
“Initiatives like the Green Jobs Fund are already creating and supporting green jobs and we will set out further action in our forthcoming energy strategy and just transition plan.
“The Scottish Government will consider this report and its recommendations.
“Scottish industry, including operators at Mossmorran, has much to gain from being at the forefront of the just transition to net zero and we would strongly encourage operators to consider what contributions they can make in this effort.”
ExxonMobil told the Times they aim to be “a leader in society’s drive for a lower-carbon future”.
A spokesperson added: “We are committed to meeting the demand for energy and providing the products society needs, while reducing emissions and managing the risks of climate change.
“It is widely acknowledged that carbon capture and storage (CCS), which was first deployed in the 1970s, will be an essential technology to help meet this dual challenge.
“At Mossmorran, we are actively working with the Scottish Cluster to explore potential solutions that could help lower future emissions from our Fife Ethylene Plant.’’
Shell UK declined to comment but said they planned to discuss the report with Mr Ruskell in the New Year.
Councillor Jan Wincott, Fife Council’s environment and climate change spokesperson, said: “The transition to a green model can only be a good thing and we would certainly welcome any opportunity to participate in dialogues with workers, unions, the plant operators and the Scottish Government.
“Through their long-term scenario planning and transition plans, Shell and ExxonMobil have the infrastructure, skills base and expertise to be part of the solution, and I hope they fully embrace the opportunities they will have in the future to develop the changes necessary for this transition.”