Fife Ethylene Plant’s shutdown has been extended towards the end of the year.
The plant at Mossmorran de-activated on August 12, and won’t be brought back into operation until the last quarter of 2019 – and that could be around November.
The closure represents what owners, ExxonMobil, say is “a significant commercial and operational impact” on the company.
The revised timescale was revealed in FEP’s latest community briefing, and the aim is to take the time to carry out a significant “repair and replace” project which should lead to more reliability in the plant’s performance.
Mossmorran shut down initially for a four-week period after a break down of two of its three boilers.
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Jacob McAlister, plant manager, said: “This move gives us the extra time to thoroughly understand and address the mechanical issues with our boilers, while also undertaking a programme of wider preventative work that will further improve reliability when we re-start the plant.”
He said the extended shutdown “underlines our commitment to ensuring safe and reliable operations” – and added: “We are still finalising timescales, but we estimate returning to operations at some point during the fourth quarter of this year.”
Mossmorran has been under the cosh after unscheduled flaring sparked a huge community backlash.
It was revealed last week that almost 1400 complaints have been made to the environment regulator, SEPA, over flaring at the plant – many of them following the Easter Bank Holiday incident which was described as one of the worst incidents.
The regulator also piled on the pressure with new enforcement action which gave the company just two months to come up with a plan of action.
FEP has teams working 24/7 at the plant to complete the work.
Mr McAlister added: “This temporary shut-down has a significant commercial and operational impact for our company, but it underlines our commitment to ensuring safe and reliable operations.” He advised communities they may see “a small amount of steam” from elevated flaring, explaining: “This is from a temporary steam source we have installed simply to keep equipment warm as we progress our maintenance work.”