Mossmorran bosses ‘committed to safety and efficiency’

Picture: Neil Gallacher
Picture: Neil Gallacher

The operators of the Fife Ethylene Plant (FEP) have moved to ensure the public that safety and efficiency is the primary focus, both now and into the future.

The commitment comes amid recent calls for an independent review into operations at the Fife facility over continued problems with unplanned flaring, and just weeks after latest data confirmed the site as the third largest emitter of carbon dioxide gases in Scotland.

Questioned over the latest figures that show the plant having reached a 14 year high by emitting 995,580 tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere in 2016, Sonia Bingham, ExxonMobil’s FEP plant manager, told the Press the cause was mainly down to maintenance.

“The Fife Ethylene Plant CO2 emissions are consistent with site production with the largest figures corresponding to years in which planned maintenance has taken place, such as in 2016, because these maintenance activities contribute to a temporary increase in emissions.

“These maintenance programme events are essential to ensure FEP’s continued safety, operational efficiency and reliability as an important supplier of ethylene to international markets.”

And she added that the plant was striving to minimise the amount of emissions experienced across the site.

“As part of our ongoing investment programme in the plant, which most recently saw the site take delivery of a training simulator, Fife Ethylene Plant (FEP) has several features which make it highly efficient, significantly reducing its energy use and associated CO2 emissions.

“For example, the site has the capacity to generate electricity from excess energy such as heat that might otherwise be wasted, supplementing site needs and allowing excess electricity to be fed back into the National Grid.

“FEP also reports and pays for CO2 emissions under the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS), a scheme which provides additional incentive to continue to seek emission reductions.”

Furthermore, Sonia also boasted the Fife plant’s “strong track record for efficiency and performance” and added that the site remained committed to a programme of continued improvements.

“As a major employer in the area and one which contributes more than £20 million annually to the Scottish economy, we are committed to a long-term investment programme in the plant including in next generation technology, including a cutting edge control room, and the development of our workforce with an advanced training simulator.

“We are using the latest digital manufacturing techniques to improve the operational efficiency and reliability of the plant.

“One of the largest projects is the next generation Analyser Upgrade Project.

“The facility has analysers throughout the plant that measure the composition and qualities of our product streams to monitor the overall process and operation of key equipment.”

With the recent instances of unscheduled flaring, which have been a cause of so much consternation among many living closest to the Mossmorran facility. Sonia said the plant boasted one of the best track records in the industry.

“While no one wants flaring, including ourselves, it is the established precautionary mechanism used in petrochemical plants worldwide to ensure the safety of the plant and that of all the workers at the Mossmorran complex and the local community.

“FEP is one of Europe’s most modern ethylene plants with one of the chemical industry’s best track records. We do all we can to minimise flaring, and we are committed to ongoing investment in FEP to build upon the efficiency of the plant which, in turn, helps reduce flaring.”

However, she admitted that the introduction of carbon capture and storage technology for Fife that environmentalists say is crucial to reducing concerns over the site’s emissions, could still be some way off, as Sonia explained.

“ExxonMobil is a leader in researching, developing and applying carbon capture and storage technology.

“As a company, we continually look at how we can draw upon this experience globally, and though there are currently no plans for this technology at FEP, it could potentially become viable in future.

That will come as a disappointment to environmentalists and community leaders but despite Mossmorran coming under increasing pressure regarding prolonged and unplanned flaring and concerns over it’s emissions, Sonia remains confident of the plant’s long-term future.

“As the FEP enters an exciting new era, we are committed to ensuring the plant remains one of the world’s most technologically advanced.”

Annabelle Ewing MSP, for the Cowdenbeath constituency, has welcomed the confirmation from SEPA this week that the findings of two investigations into the unplanned flaring at Mossmorron will be made public.

“ Mr A’Hearn at SEPA has informed me that following the most recent flaring event and an earlier incident in June, SEPA will be reviewing their arrangement for monitoring these events, both proactively and reactively.

“He also states that SEPA will be reviewing the monitoring being undertaken by the company and may require them to undertake additional monitoring.

“What local people want to see is a scientific assessment of the environment – including noise and health impacts that flaring might have.

“I am pleased to note the intention of SEPA to engage with the local community to inform their view as to what is required and I trust that they will followed through on this commitment in a meaningful way.”