SEPA was notified on Saturday 19 March by ExxonMobil Chemical Limited at Mossmorran in Fife that flaring was required due to a mechanical issue with an onsite pump.
Flaring is an important part of the safety system of the plant and is used to burn off gas that cannot be processed safely due to the volumes involved or the gas being off specification. ExxonMobil Chemical Limited, as part of the licence conditions with SEPA, is permitted to flare for safety purposes. However, there are conditions in the permits relating to flaring which aim to minimise community disturbance and pollution from flaring.
In April 2018, SEPA issued final warning letters to the petrochemical companies ExxonMobil Chemical Limited and Shell UK Limited following enhanced unplanned flaring at the complex during June 2017. This was the result of an investigation that identified a series of maintenance failures led to elevated levels of unplanned flaring in breach of environmental controls between 12 and 18 June 2017, following the breakdown of a condensate pump.
Flaring remains an important safety mechanism and is permitted through licence conditions. However, in response to the flaring, which began in the evening of Saturday 19 May, SEPA has mobilised a full response. The response includes both air quality and noise monitoring to assess the local impacts.
SEPA experts are in the local area and have started to capture air quality samples. The air quality data will be subject to further analysis but early indications show that levels are consistent with our expectations. 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.
SEPA operates a 24 hour Pollution Hotline (0800 80 70 60) for members of the public. We’re sharing information on our dedicated Mossmorran hub (sepa.org.uk/mossmorran) and across social media.