SEPA closely monitoring restart of Fife Ethylene plant after major investment work to reduce impact of flaring

  22 June 2021
Work to reduce the impacts of flaring from the Fife Ethylene Plant reaches an important milestone this week as ExxonMobil Chemical Limited begins the process of restarting its plant following the installation of a low-noise elevated flare tip, as required by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA).

• Important milestone on Mossmorran’s pathway to compliance as ExxonMobil restarts after installing new flare tip required by SEPA

• Scotland’s environmental regulator is closely monitoring the restart and will begin work to verify that the flare tip installation meets permit requirements.

• Work is part of £140m upgrade of ExxonMobil Chemical Limited Fife Ethylene Plant to improve site reliability.

• Specialist SEPA staff will be in communities throughout the week to assess any impacts. Air quality and noise monitoring will continue throughout.

• Further improvements expected in 2022 with the installation of a totally enclosed ground flare which Exxon states will reduce the use of the elevated flare by 98%.

• SEPA continues to strengthen the regulation and monitoring of both Mossmorran operators across the investment period, with specialist monitoring, compliance, enforcement and support staff involved in work on the industrial complex.

SEPA will be closely monitoring the restart to assess what improvements have been made and will carry out work to verify the flare tip installation meets permit requirements

The flare tip installation was part of ExxonMobil’s £140m upgrade to improve site reliability, which began in April. The tip is considered to be the best available technology for reducing noise from steam assisted elevated flares. A main contributor to elevated flare noise is the amount of steam which is injected into the flare tip (steam is used to promote efficient combustion of waste gases and prevent dark smoke). The new tip design uses internal steam tubes that allow better mixing of gases as well as reducing overall steam consumption and noise.

Following this initial upgrade, elevated flaring may still be audible in the community. The most significant reduction in noise will come from the installation and operation of a new ground flare which is on order and scheduled to be commissioned by the end of 2022. This will significantly reduce elevated flaring from the site and remove a main cause of noise disturbance in the community.

Taken together, the upgrades will significantly improve the reliability of the ExxonMobil Chemical Limited Fife Ethylene Plant, reducing the requirement for flaring and significantly reducing the community impact of flaring when it does occur.

While the re-start process will require planned elevated flaring. SEPA expects ExxonMobil to keep the duration and rate of flaring as low as possible and will have specialist regulatory and scientific staff deployed in local communities. Noise and air quality monitoring will also continue.

Regular updates will be provided on SEPA’s Mossmorran hub at sepa.org.uk/Mossmorran and fuller data will be made available as soon as possible once the restart is complete.

Terry A’Hearn, Chief Executive of the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, said:

“At SEPA we’re pleased to see the installation of the noise reducing flare tip we required through a variation to the site’s Permit. This is a major milestone on the pathway to compliance, but is just one important step towards a future with less flaring and less impact for communities when flaring is required. We will be closely monitoring how the restart is carried out.

“There are future improvements to come at the site, one of which is ExxonMobil installing a new totally enclosed ground flare in 2022. Specialist SEPA officers will continue to engage with the operator to ensure this work can go ahead as planned.

“Communities across Fife have the right to a future where flaring is the exception rather than routine. Robust regulation takes time but through our work, and the significant investment by site operators, a clear pathway to compliance is now in sight for local communities who can be assured of our continued vigilance over this important period and beyond.”

SEPA also continues to progress recommendations from the Irish EPA’s which will see the regulator’s programme of environmental monitoring extended with community participation in its design, alongside enhanced visibility of regulatory monitoring results and investment in a refreshed online community information hub.