Flaring stops at Mossmorran as politicians call for an investigation

Flaring has now stopped at Mossmorran but politicians have called for an investigation into the incident. Pic: NEIL GALLACHER
Flaring has now stopped at Mossmorran but politicians have called for an investigation into the incident. Pic: NEIL GALLACHER

The operators of the Mossmorran petrochemical plant have confirmed that flaring has now stopped and normal operations have resumed following a small gas leak on Friday.

ExxonMobil Chemical has apologised again to the local community for the unplanned flaring over the last few days as they completed the process to re-start the plant which is near Cowdenbeath.

The flaring at Mossmorran lit up the night skies above Fife and could be seen ass far as Edinburgh. Pic: Steve Gunn.

The flaring at Mossmorran lit up the night skies above Fife and could be seen ass far as Edinburgh. Pic: Steve Gunn.

Craig McCafferty, process manager at Fife Ethylene Plant for ExxonMobil Chemical, confirmed today (Tuesday) that flaring ceased at 11.54 pm last night.

He said: “I would like to apologise once again to the local community for the unplanned flaring over the

past few days, and to pay tribute to the team at the plant, many of whom live locally, who have worked tirelessly to resolve the issue and return the plant to normal operations.

“We know from first-hand experience that flaring can cause concern and inconvenience, but it is a vital safety system and we never flare without good reason.

“We recognise it can be frustrating to local residents and we are grateful to the local community for their patience and understanding.”

He added that ExxonMobil Chemical had kept the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) fully informed throughout the flaring event, and would be providing an incident report in the next few days.

Meanwhile, local politicians are calling for an investigation, amid concerns from residents.

Lesley Laird, Labour MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, called for a “root and branch review” at Mossmorran.

Ms Laird, who previously met with ExxonMobil representatives to discuss ongoing concerns with flaring at the plant earlier this year, stressed communications between the operator and residents needs to improve.

She said: “There has been a loss in confidence in the flaring process - the light, noise pollution and smell emitted from the plant has caused great disruption to the local community.

“There needs to be a root and branch review of why flaring keeps happening.”

Ms Laird is set to meet with Prof. Wilson Sibbett, who chairs the Independent Monitoring Committee, in the coming weeks to further discuss whether monitoring at Mossmorran is fit for purpose.

David Torrance, SNP MSP for Kirkcaldy, said: “I have contacted the Scottish Government to seek answers to the following questions: What discussions the government has had with ExxonMobil Chemical regarding the prolonged flaring; what action it has taken and plans to take to ensure that the operator has robust contingencies in place so that (a) such incidents do not pose a risk to people living and working in the vicinity of the plant and (b) any disruption to communities arising from unplanned incidents is minimised.”

He continued: “What analysis has the Scottish Government carried out of the impact that prolonged gas flaring can have on the environment and, in light of the recently-reported prolonged flaring caused by a gas leak at the Mossmorran petrochemical plant, whether it has asked the operator, ExxonMobil Chemical, to carry out an environmental impact assessment of such operations at its plant.

“I will continue to work closely with ExxonMobil Chemical, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), the Scottish Government and my constituents over the coming months, to ensure everyone is kept fully informed as this issue progresses.”

Meanwhile, Ms Annabelle Ewing, SNP MSP for Cowdenbeath constituency, has written to Terry A’Hearn, chief executive of SEPA.

Ms Ewing said: “I have received a number of communications from constituents regarding the flaring at the ExxonMobile plant which began early on Friday evening and I have no doubt that their hotline will have been ringing off the hook.

“I have asked Mr A’Hearn whether SEPA will be conducting an investigation into this incident and to clarify whether SEPA have been actively monitoring the actual flaring itself.

“My constituents are understandably concerned to know exactly what has been going on and what impact it might be having on their local environment.”

Jim Mann, member of Lochgelly Community Council and the Mossmorran Safety Liaison Group, has written to several Scottish government ministers about the recent flaring.

He said: “I feel enough is enough. We need a proper investigation. People from local communities who work there as well as people who live locally, what price do we put on their health? I want a full investigation into the impact on the environment, health and safety and on residents’ lives.”

Over the weekend, Mark Ruskell, Green MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife, demanded action from the Scottish Government.

Mr Ruskell said the noise, bright light and vibrations associated with the process were heard for miles around, resulting in severe inconvenience and distress for the communities affected.

Mr Ruskell called on the Scottish Government and SEPA to take “serious enforcement action” to “ensure that the wellbeing of those living in the shadow of Mossmorran is given greater priority than Exxon Mobil’s shareholders.”

The MSP added: “After decades of disruption this incident raises major concerns about whether the site in its current state is fit for purpose to run on till 2030.”

A spokesman for SEPA said it had been liaising with ExxonMobil Chemical Ltd throughout the flaring at Mossmorran to ensure the operator was doing all it could to minimise the impact of the activity on the local community.

This morning (Tuesday) he added: “We have been informed that flaring has now finished. We will be following up with the operator in order to understand what actions they intend to take.”