Mossmorran flaring could last for days

Emergency services at Mossmorran after unscheduled flaring at the Fife plant (Pic: FFP)
Emergency services at Mossmorran after unscheduled flaring at the Fife plant (Pic: FFP)

Unscheduled at flaring at Mossmorran could continue for several days.

Plant operator, ExxonMobil Limited, said today it was ‘‘working round the clock’’ to install a replacement pump, but could give no timescale when the job would be completed.

This latest flaring saw seven fire appliances dispatched to the plant on Saturday as a “precautionary’’ measure, as the skies above Fife were again lit up, sparking a renewed backlash from local communities and politicians.

Mark Ruskell, Green MSP said it was “another unacceptable incident’’ at the plant, while Mossmorran Action Group demanded more detailed information from Exxon, branding their apology as “bringing no comfort to residents suffering fear and stress.’’

Officers from SEPA – the Scottish Environment Protection Agency – have been on site monitoring noise and air quality.

The agency issued a final warning to Exxonmobil earlier this year in relation to maintenance failures which led to an unscheduled flaring in the summer of 2017.

It still has two other incidents to investigate, and now, potentially, a third.

ExxonMobil said in a statement this morning that the pump which failed was “one of hundreds’’ used to move liquids through the production process.

It said firefighters from Fife Fire and Rescue Service were called as part of the plant’s standard precautionary procedures while its staff isolated the pump. They were there to offer any support and advice – most of the work was done by plant staff.

Sonia Bingham, plant manager, said: “It is not possible to predict precisely at this stage when in the next few days we will return to normal operations, but we are doing everything we can to do this as soon as possible, while at the same time minimising the size of the flare and any resulting disturbance to the community.”

The plant is permitted to flare for safety purposes, but is the unscheduled incidents which have caused a huge outcry.

SEPA experts have been in the area to capture air quality samples. These will be subject to further analysis but early indications show that levels are consistent with our expectations.

A statement from the agency said: “We are clear that environmental compliance is non-negotiable and both the air quality and noise monitoring SEPA staff is undertaking is to assess the impact of flaring.

“Whilst currently restricted in what we are able to communicate at this time, to avoid any prejudice to any potential enforcement action, our officers will continue to engage with operators and attend the local community.’’

For local campaigners, there is a clear need for more information.

Mossmorran Action Group said: “Easy apologies from ExxonMobil bring no comfort to residents suffering the fear and stress created by yet another emergency flaring period when the operators are under a final warning and are still under investigation for two other emergencies in the last year.

As usual, no one appears to know how long the flaring will last, and the operators and regulators are tight lipped about the causes and extent of the emergency.’’

It continued: “After SEPA blamed a previous recent emergency flaring on negligence by ExxonMobil, we want to know the full extent of the current “equipment failure”, what exactly was leaked, how the spillage is being treated and what risks it has presented to emergency workers and local residents.

“Seven appliances at such an emergency may be protocol, but as these emergencies are increasing, questions should also be asked about the cost, to both the public purse and the ability of the Fire Service to respond to concurrent local incidents.”