New operating controls served on Mossmorran plant

The site has faced a number of problems with unscheduled flaring over the last year.
The site has faced a number of problems with unscheduled flaring over the last year.

New operating restrictions for the controversial Mossmorran chemical plant have been introduced in a bid to tighten up controls and reduce the threat of pollution.

The Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) announced variations to operating permits for ExxonMobil and Shell UK following a review announced in April, to strengthen noise and vibration controls.

The move comes just weeks after both companies were issued final warning letters following a series of unscheduled flarings which have brought a deluge of complaints.

A top level enquiry, to be conducted by SEPA and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) will also now take place.

Terry A’Hearn, SEPA chief executive said he had listened carefully to first-hand accounts from the community and politicians at last week’s roundtable meeting and again during the Scottish Parliament debate.

He added: “We were clear that unplanned flaring in June 2017 was preventable and unacceptable and we issued final warnings to both companies in that regard.

“We listened carefully to community calls for a root and branch review and have taken action to begin the joint investigation with the HSE.

“The permit variations we have now served on ExxonMobil Chemical Ltd and Shell UK set out what each operator must do under law.

“They include legally binding conditions requiring them to take all appropriate preventative measures now against noise and vibration emissions through the application of Best Available Techniques, so no significant pollution is caused.

“They also require a refreshed assessment of the Best Available Techniques likely to require investment at both facilities.”

Responding to the latest developments, a spokesman for ExxonMobil said: “While we appreciate recent flaring events have caused concern, we would like to reassure the local community that we are a responsible operator and safety is our utmost priority.

“This commitment is backed up by a rigorous maintenance programme at the plant and, in turn, is supported by significant investment.

“As a responsible and long-standing employer, we take the concerns of local residents very seriously and fully recognise the importance of regulating the operation of a plant of the scale and complexity of FEP in order to minimise the impact on the surrounding communities and the wider environment.

“Our operations are governed by our permit from SEPA and we have a longstanding record of good compliance with our operating permit.”