Mossmorran operators given two months for flaring plan

SEPA have made permit variations for Mossmorran
SEPA have made permit variations for Mossmorran

Operators of Mossmorran have been given two months to come up with a plan to reduce flaring impacts.

The Scottish environment watchdog SEPA – Scottish Environment Protection Agency – has served the first in a series of permit variations on ExxonMoil and Shell UK to lock in compliance at the Cowdenbeath facility.

The permit variations require both operators to achieve ‘Best Available Techniques’ at Mossmorran in the shortest timeframe possible.

The variations will lead to a reduction in the impacts of flaring on local communities when it is necessary, and flaring, which is an important safety feature of industrial facilities, will become the “exception rather than routine”.

New infrastructure will address the issues that cause disturbance locally when flaring must happen, with ExxonMobil required to install noise reducing flare tips in 2020 and Shell UK to install them in 2021.

ExxonMobil has committed to optimising timescales to install ground flares, whcih will significantly address impacts from flaring.

And SEPA announced a two month requirement for the company to come forward with the “shortest period possible to plan, design, build and safely integrate” new ground flare technology.

While Shell UK must provide the regulator with a project plan by the end of January 2020 for a totally enclosed ground flare system.

The moves come after SEPA issued final warning letters to both operators in 2018 regarding flaring which was found to be “preventable and unacceptable”.

Both companies were subject to comprehensive technical assessments to ensure they were using ‘Best Available Techniques’, and it was found that neither company is for flaring.

Ian Buchanan, Chief Officer, Compliance and Beyond at SEPA said: “Last week we reiterated that compliance with Scotland’s environmental rules is simply non-negotiable, we said that SEPA and local communities wanted faster progress and outlined the steps we would take to make this happen.

“Today we’ve moved to vary the operating permits of both ExxonMobil Chemical and Shell to require them to take action in the shortest possible timeframe. Addressing the unacceptable impacts will require substantial investments of which both companies are fully aware.

“People rightly expect that their lives won’t be impacted by nearby industrial processes. Most also recognise that addressing the root causes won’t happen overnight. We want and expect ExxonMobil Chemical to move faster. In addition to requiring both companies to install noise reducing flare tips, we now expect firm proposals to be brought forward to explain how new ground flare capacity will be planned, designed, built and safely integrated in the shortest period possible.

“Today’s action will get us to clear commitments and milestones to address the systemic causes of flaring and ensure future flaring becomes an exception rather than routine.”

SEPA has confirmed the continuation of air quality monitoring at a number of locations around the site, as the agency’s sixth published monitoring report continues to show no breach of air quality standards due to flaring at Mossmorran.

SEPA will work with partner agencies with air quality responsibilities to assess requirements thereafter.

Following the variations announced by SEPA, Teresa Waddington, Shell Fife FNGL plant manager, said: “We have received a notice of permit variation and we will review it carefully.

“We are committed to operating the Shell Fife NGL plant within regulations, and improving in alignment with best available techniques for flaring practices.

“The plant plays a vital role in the supply of energy to Scotland and the UK every day, and we strive to minimise our impact on the local community.”