SEPA is committed to keeping the Grangemouth community updated. As well as information about the sites operating in the area and how we regulate them, this page will also include updates on any incidents or investigations that are currently ongoing (as far as SEPA is able to provide).
- Incidents, complaints and enquiries
- Activities in the area
- Air quality, noise and odours
- Emergency response
- Frequently asked questions
Reports of odour and noise in the Grangemouth area
Sunday 16 June 2019
On Saturday 16th June 2019 SEPA’s 24 Hour Pollution Hotline received sixty-six complaints regarding odour and noise in the Grangemouth area.
Having yesterday identified the source of odours as the Petroineos in Grangemouth, officers attended the site again today (Sunday 17th June).
SEPA understands that the operator continues to respond to an issue with the sulphur units which explained the nature of the reports SEPA received.
Officers were unable to detect the odour today (Sunday) and reports have decreased significantly.
SEPA has again impressed on Petroineos the importance of resolving outstanding issues and have urged them to provide an update to the community as soon as possible.
Saturday 15 June 2019
SEPA has received a significant number of complaints today regarding odour and noise in the Grangemouth area.
SEPA regulatory staff have attended the area and identified that the most likely source of the reported odours and noise is the refinery operated by Petroineos in Grangemouth.
We have been advised by the operator that the odours are due to an issue with the sulphur units and this helps to explain the nature of the reports SEPA has received - with members of the public reporting smells of striked matches and sulphur/ rotten eggs.
We are awaiting an update from Petroineos, have impressed on them the importance of resolving the odour and noise issues quickly and have urged them to provide an update to the community as soon as possible. We will attend the site again tomorrow (16 June) and will seek a further update from the operator.
Controlled elevated flaring at the INEOS FPS Kinneil Terminal
14 June 2019
SEPA has received the following notfication from INEOS:
"Due to a short-term operational issue at one of the off-shore installations connected to the Forties Pipeline, we will be managing periods of controlled elevated flaring at the INEOS FPS Kinneil Terminal. This will be evident over the weekend and will last up to approximately 48 hours.
"INEOS is working hard at Kinneil to mitigate the consequence of the off-shore issue. We will make every effort to minimise the level and duration of the associated flaring.
"We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause our local neighbours and thank you for your patience.
"We are committed to informing our local community and those who live and work nearby of our activities that may result in flaring."
You can view up-to-date messages on the company's Twitter feed via @ineos_fps
Members of the public who are concerned about a potential pollution issue are encouraged to contact our pollution hotline on 0800 80 70 60 or use our online reporting form. This is 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We aim to follow up all complaints within 24 hours.
There are over 40 regulated sites in the Grangemouth area. Information on each site, with a note of the site licence number(s), the activity that is carried out, the most recent compliance score and any relevant notes is available on the SEPA-regulated sites page.
SEPA has a statutory responsibility to ensure that regulated processes do not result in, or contribute to, an exceedence of European air quality objectives.
Local authorities have a statutory duty to review and assess local air quality in their area against the air quality objectives for various pollutants that are in-place to protect human health. These air quality objectives are contained within the National Air Quality Strategy for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland which was last updated in 2007.
Information on the air quality assessments and monitoring undertaken by Falkirk Council can be found on its website. Information about air quality in the Grangemouth area and real time data from monitoring sites can be found on the Scottish Air Quality website.
SEPA is responsible for regulating noise from sites, or parts of sites, that have a Part A Pollution Prevention and Control (PPC) permit.
Local authorities can deal with noise from loud music, DIY activities, barking dogs or other excessive animal noise, car and burglar alarms, deliberate banging or raised voices (where unreasonable). Local councils can act to stop unreasonable industrial or commercial noise (except those that have a PPC permit from SEPA).
Health and Safety Executive deals with noise at work, and has a wide range of information and resources for employers, workers and their advisers to reduce and control the risks from noise at work.
SEPA regulates a variety of activities and practices in a bid to reduce and prevent offensive odours from sites regulated under the PPC and waste management regulations. Any sites or activities that produce offensive odour and are not covered by these regulations are classed as a statutory nuisance, and are dealt with by local authorities - along with odour problems arising from vehicles and households.
Regulating odour is one of the most difficult areas of our work – odour is a highly complex and subjective issue and what is offensive to one person may not be offensive to another. When assessing the possible source of an odour SEPA will consider wind direction, any other companies or activities downwind and the activities happening at a site at the time of the odour being experienced.
Potential odours from SEPA-regulated activities can range from sulphurous type compounds (burnt match or rotten egg smells), solvents (sweet solvent, nail varnish), effluent (rotten cabbage) and bone/fish meal amongst others.
We have published guidance on dealing with activities that could cause offensive odour. Although the guidance is aimed at aimed at SEPA officers, it can also be referred to by members of the public and industrial operators.
Find out more about how SEPA regulates odours.
There are 29 areas that have been identified as being potentially vulnerable to flood risk across the Forth Estuary Local Plan District. These include 14,000 residential and 3,800 non- residential properties. The estimated annual average damage of these flood risks is £36 million.
The Local Flood Risk Management Plan presents actions to avoid and reduce the risk of flooding, and prepare and protect ourselves and our communities within these Potentially Vulnerable Areas and across the Local Plan District.
Grangemouth Flood Scheme
The Grangemouth Flood Scheme website has been created by the Project Team to provide current information on the scheme, as well as providing updates on its progress and the opportunity for you to feedback.
Live flood warnings and sign up
You can call Floodline on 0345 988 1188 or visit the Flood Updates page for live flooding information.
Floodline provides live flooding information and advice on how to prepare for or cope with the impacts of flooding 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
You can also sign up to receive messages from Floodline direct to your phone to tell you when flooding is forecast in your area, we will send you a message by phone or text, advising that a Flood Warning or Flood Alert has been issued and where to go to find out more about the flooding situation.
Receiving advance notice of flooding means that you have time to prepare and reduce the impact of flooding on your life and your property.
You can view the area covered by our flood warning scheme for the Grangemouth area on our website.
SEPA’s flood warning development plan
As flood warning authority under the Flood Risk Management (Scotland) Act 2009, and in undertaking our Civil Contingencies Act 2004 Category 1 duties, we aim to develop and improve our flood forecasting and warning service to reduce the impact of flooding on our most vulnerable communities. SEPA has developed a Flood Warning Development Framework, which covers the period 2017 to 2021 and explains how we intend to deliver and develop our service over the next five years.
Water level monitoring for area
We monitor and record water levels on lochs, rivers and coastlines around Scotland, producing valuable information used by businesses, households and leisure users.
Sites in Grangemouth are generally regulated by SEPA under one or more of the following regimes. Some of the larger industrial sites have other relevant regulations, which are detailed in the individual site section.
PPC/A/ in a licence number means this site is regulated under PPC Part A. These are generally larger industrial activities, potentially involving discharges to land, air and water, and include activities such as energy production, mineral activities, fertiliser production and certain types of waste management.
PPC/B/ in a licence number means this site is regulated under PPC Part B - These are generally smaller scale activities. More detail on Part B activities in available in Schedule 1 of the Regulations.
PPC/E/ means licence was issued in SEPA's East region. This is generally for older licences.
The majority of waste management facilities are licensed by way of a Waste Management Licence. Some facilities some may also have a PPC permit, or may operate under an exemption.
The CAR Regulations cover any activity that removes water from the environment (abstraction), discharges to the water environment (including waste products, chemicals, oil and sewage), and engineering works in inland waters.
Some of the sites in Grangemouth are also regulated under the COMAH Regulations, which are jointly regulated, by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and SEPA as the Competent Authority. Qualifying establishments are divided into Lower Tier and Upper Tier establishments based on quantities of dangerous substances held on the site.
Further information on COMAH is available on the Health and Safety Executive website
Public Information about Establishments that are covered by the COMAH Regulations can be found at COMAH 2015 public information webpage.
In addition to carrying out routine regular inspections under both PPC and COMAH, SEPA has a duty to carry out investigations into incidents under both regulatory regimes. SEPA focuses on the environmental aspects of incidents although there is often an overlap with safety aspects considered under COMAH by the HSE.
How do I report a pollution incident?
SEPA's 24 hour pollution hotline is always available on 0800 80 70 60 or via our online reporting form.
Contact SEPA as soon as you become aware of a potential pollution incident so we can begin investigations early. Provide as much information as you can, including the location and any relevant details.
If the complaint is related to an odour it is very helpful for you to be as descriptive as possible, so that we can try and ascertain where it may be coming from.
Examples of the odours previously reported from SEPA-regulated activities include:
- burnt matches;
- rotten eggs;
- nail varnish;
What information do I need to provide to SEPA about any pollution incident that I am concerned about?
All contact can be treated as confidential. You do not have to provide your name or contact details.
The more information you can provide to help us understand what is happening, and where it is, the easier it is for us to investigate.
- Details of the possible pollution.
- Where it’s taking place - the more descriptive you can be the easier it is for us to find it.
- What type of pollution it is – air, water, waste.
- Any helpful details - any odours, any coloured discharge, what time you noticed it, whether you have seen it before.
- If you can provide a postcode, we can use geographical information systems (GIS) to look at what’s in the area in relation to the reported pollution.
All this helps us build up as clear a picture as possible of what is being reported.
It also helps to determine if we are the right organisation to deal with the incident.
What happens when I report a pollution incident?
On receiving a call, or report via our webform, our operators in our 24 hour Contact centre will notify the team (or on call officer if it’s out of hours) for the area where the pollution has been reported.
We have Environment Protection Officers (EPOs) based in 22 offices across Scotland from Lerwick in the north to Dumfries in the south. They are responsible for frontline regulation, which includes inspections, working with and advising operators on complying with legislation, and responding to environmental incidents.
The duty officer then decides on the course of action and the report will be followed up by one of our officers.
Depending on what is found on investigation and the severity and nature of the incident, other parts of the organisation can then become involved.
This could be:
- other EPOs for assistance or advice;
- administrative staff providing clean sampling materials and logging returned samples;
- our scientists conducting surveys (such as ecology) and working in the lab to analyse samples taken from the scene;
- our communications team if we need to let others know about the incident or there is media interest;
- and in some cases, advice from our legal and policy teams if the pollution is serious and enforcement action is required.
All callers who contact SEPA to report a potential incident, and provide us with their contact details, will receive feedback on what actions we have taken to investigate their call if requested.
Our SCC staff also work closely with our EPOs and are kept informed of any particular issues. This means that if they get a call about that issue they are able to reassure the caller that we are aware of the problem and can often advise of any action we are taking, especially if it is a site with ongoing problems that the local team are working with to resolve.
Can SEPA provide feedback on investigations into reported pollution incidents?
SEPA is unable to provide updates into ongoing investigations. We will provide updates when we can, but we must be careful not to provide unsubstantiated details or prejudice any enforcement action we may take.
All callers who contact SEPA to report a potential incident, and provide us with their contact details, will receive feedback on what actions we have taken to investigate their call if requested. However, we may only be able to provide limited details.
Why can't I report pollution to SEPA through social media?
SEPA's social media is not monitored 24 hours a day.
The delay in reports sent through social media being picked up can delay our response. This can result in evidence being lost if it is short-lived or transient pollution.
Our 24 hour Pollution Hotline on 0800 80 70 60 is staffed all the time, and reports sent in using our online reporting form are also handled by our Contact Centre.
Why do sites need to flare?
Flares are part of the safety system and are used to burn off gas that cannot be processed safely due to the volumes involved or the gas being off specification. This might be due to scheduled maintenance requiring the plant to be ‘gas free’ prior to entry; or, following an unplanned operational interruption.
Petroineos Manufacturing Scotland Limited has three elevated flares for safety reasons.
Ineos Chemicals Grangemouth Limited has seven elevated flares for safety reasons and also a ground flare for the KG Ethylene Plant.
INEOS FPS Kinneil Terminal has two elevated flares for safety reasons and four ground flares. Two ground flares are currently operational.
Ground flares can reduce noise impacts and are, along with low noise flare tips for elevated flares, recognised as Best Available Techniques for areas like Grangemouth and Bo’ness.
How often do plants flare?
The number and type of flaring events varies year to year. These events can last just a few seconds and minutes to hours and days depending on the circumstances at the time. The primary reason for flaring is safety and events can be either planned or unplanned in nature. In years where there are more planned maintenance activities an increase in the number of flaring events can be expected.
To understand the frequency, type and duration of flaring events that occur, Petroineos Manufacturing Scotland Limited, INEOS FPS and Ineos Chemicals Grangemouth Limited are required to provide quarterly and annual reports to SEPA.
This data is used as part of the regulatory controls applied by SEPA to Petroineos Manufacturing Scotland Limited, INEOS FPS and Ineos Chemicals Grangemouth Limited under their PPC permits. Significant flaring incidents must also be notified to SEPA and an incident report submitted (normally one to two pages in length) which SEPA then follows up directly with the operator.
What monitoring activity does SEPA undertake during flaring events?
Flaring events can vary from a few seconds, minutes or hours to days or even weeks. Some events are planned and some are unplanned and the root causes and impacts can vary significantly (i.e. the rate at which gas is flared, steam is managed and whether there is emission of dark smoke or not). Monitoring could not be justified on all occasions and the focus for us as a regulator is on ensuring compliance and working with the companies in Grangemouth to minimise the need to flare and to reduce the impacts.
What are the constituents of the flares?
The main gases burnt in the flares are hydrocarbons such as ethane, propane etc. Other hydrocarbons may also be present as well as hydrogen and nitrogen.
Most of these gases are converted into carbon dioxide and water. Additionally steam is added to the flame to assist in clean burning of the flare.
What restrictions are in place on flaring and why is the flare occasionally smoky?
Petroineos Manufacturing Scotland Limited, INEOS Chemicals Grangemouth Limited and INEOS FPS Limited are permitted to flare for safety purposes. However, there are conditions in the PPC permits relating to flaring which aim to minimise community disturbance and pollution from flaring.
Smoky flaring can be minimised by the addition of steam to optimise combustion. However, excessive steam addition can give rise to noise nuisance and must therefore be carefully managed.
The elevated flares have restrictions on flaring in their PPC permit which prevent flaring of dark smoke for greater than 30 minutes in any hour.
Any unplanned flaring events that give rise to or are likely to give rise to flaring from the elevated flares at rates above the thresholds in the permit, require the operator to follow the incident procedures in the PPC permit. This includes formal notification to SEPA without delay and a follow up investigation report within 14 days to confirm the causes of the flaring event, the environmental impact and measures to prevent a further flaring event due to similar causes.
For INEOS Chemicals Limited the visual and noise impact of flaring is generally minimised by using the KG ground flare; forward planning to maximise flaring during daylight hours; and, minimising the amount of material to be flared. However when the ground flare is not available, or the flow-rates are too great (e.g. in certain start-up or shutdown operations), then the elevated flare is also used.
Ineos FPS Limited FPS is permitted to flare for safety purposes. The visual and noise impacts of flaring are minimised by using ground flares, and ways by which the availability and reliability of ground flares can be improved are currently being considered for this site. These improvements will be part of a permit review in 2019 that sets out Best Available Techniques for flaring and the timescales for achieving these techniques.
What are the impacts to air quality of flaring?
Petroineos Manufacturing Scotland Limited
Flaring from the refinery falls into two groups – hydrocarbons containing sulphur and hydrocarbons without sulphur. As the refinery sits within the Grangemouth Air Quality Management Area (AQMA), which was designated by Falkirk Council for elevated Sulphur levels, flaring of sulphur compounds is more tightly regulated. There are provisions in the permit for minimising and monitoring the emissions of sulphur and a network of monitoring stations are located in Grangemouth Town and Bo’ness, which can be accessed via air quality Scotland web-site
INEOS Chemicals Limited
As feed gas is low sulphur there should not be any link to the local air quality management area.
INEOS FPS Limited
Ineos FPS has provisions in the permit for minimising and monitoring of emissions.