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Wednesday 4 December

SEPA is aware that ExxonMobil Chemical Limited is starting up the Fife Ethylene Plant at Mossmorran following the shutdown in August.

The first stage of this process involves steam generation to warm equipment up. This is beginning to happen now and means that steam will be visible at the Plant.  No change in flaring is expected during this initial phase of the start-up.

We have asked the company to keep the local community, partner agencies and local stakeholders fully informed throughout the start-up with a clear explanation of what can be expected in advance of this happening at the Plant.

SEPA is working with ExxonMobil to get a firm timeframe for the re-start schedule and has been very clear that impacts on the local community must be minimised.

Air quality monitoring at a number of locations will continue, with the results published on our dedicated Mossmorran Hub at www.sepa.org.uk/Mossmorran    

 

Previous 2019 updates are available in the drop down sections divided by date. Updates from previous years can be found at  Flaring at Mossmorran - previous updates

Community update: Tackling unacceptable impacts of flaring at Mossmorran

Community update: Tackling unacceptable impacts of flaring at Mossmorran

On Saturday 24 August, SEPA announced the latest in a series of steps the agency was taking to drive compliance, operational investment and to make flaring the “exception rather than routine.”

We are ensuring that local communities are being put first and we reach as many people as possible through our communications.

With a firm focus on continuing our engagement with local communities, this week we are engaging directly with communities in Cowdenbeath, Auchtertool and Lochgelly. Residents in these areas will receive a leaflet to their homes providing an update of our regulatory action and how we are responding to community concerns.

We will support this direct engagement with local radio updates across Forth 1, Forth 2 and Kingdom FM and across SEPA's social media channels.

 

Mossmorran operating permits varied by SEPA to require both operators to address unacceptable impacts of flaring - 24 August 2019

Mossmorran operating permits varied by SEPA to require both operators to address unacceptable impacts of flaring - 24 August 2019

  • SEPA varies ExxonMobil Chemical Limited and Shell U.K. Limited operating permits to require both operators to achieve ‘Best Available Techniques’ at the Fife petrochemical complex. 
  • Flaring will be “exception rather than routine” with new infrastructure to address unacceptable impacts of flaring events on local communities.
  • Noise reducing flare tips to be installed in 2020 for ExxonMobil Chemical Limited and in 2021 for Shell U.K. Limited.
  • Two months required for ExxonMobil Chemical Limited to come forward with “shortest period possible to plan, design, build and safely integrate” new ground flare technology.
  • SEPA confirms air quality monitoring at a number of locations will continue as agency’s sixth published monitoring report continues to show no breach of air quality standards due to flaring at Mossmorran. Noise monitoring will also continue.
  • SEPA’s reaffirms complex regulatory investigation involving specialist technical, regulatory and enforcement officers will conclude by end November 2019, subject to no new lines of enquiry being uncovered during this phase.  SEPA confirmed last week that it will fully investigate the current incident.
  • SEPA fully publish permit variations and latest monitoring data at sepa.org.uk/Mossmorran

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) has served the first in a series of permit variations to lock in compliance at the Mossmorran facility and reduce flaring impacts.

Yesterday (23 August 2019) the regulator served operating permit variations on ExxonMobil Chemical Limited and Shell U.K. Limited to 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. Flaring, an important safety feature of industrial facilities, will become the “exception rather than routine” and new infrastructure will address the issues that cause disturbance to local people when flaring must happen.

The agency confirmed a requirement on the operator to install noise reducing flare tips in 2020 (for ExxonMobil Chemical Limited) and 2021 (for Shell U.K. Limited).

Following direct engagement this week, SEPA also announced ExxonMobil Chemical Limited has committed to optimising timescales to install ground flares - which will significantly address impacts from flaring.

SEPA today 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. Shell U.K. Limited must provide SEPA with a project plan by the end of January 2020 for totally enclosed ground flare system.

The moves follow SEPA’s Final Warning Letters to both operators in 2018 regarding flaring which was found to be “preventable and unacceptable”. Today’s move is a direct consequence of a 2018 requirement from SEPA that both companies conduct comprehensive technical assessments to ensure both companies were using ‘Best Available Techniques’.  These were received from both operators on 30 April 2019 and were subject to a rigorous review by technical specialists in SEPA.

SEPA’s review of the assessments found that ExxonMobil Chemical Limited and Shell U.K. Limited are not currently using all Best Available Techniques for flaring.  On 16 August 2019 the agency acknowledged ExxonMobil’s recognition of the requirement to upgrade their plant but found that their proposed timescales to increase capacity and accessibility to ground flares were unacceptable. SEPA found that Shell U.K. Limited had not sufficiently demonstrated that the proposed principles, approach and level of upgrade to the plant would achieve Best Available Techniques and were also unacceptable.

Today’s action also followed investigations in 2018/19 and an earlier tightening of permit conditions.

Continuing to respond to community concern, SEPA today confirmed the continuation 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.

SEPA reaffirmed its complex regulatory investigation to an evidential standard involving specialist technical, regulatory and enforcement officers will conclude by end November 2019, subject to no new lines of enquiry being uncovered during this phase.  SEPA confirmed last week that it will fully investigate the current incident.

SEPA’s permit variations and latest air quality monitoring summary reports have been published at www.sepa.org.uk/mossmorran

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.”

Variations

SEPA monitoring report

Mossmorran unplanned flaring - Friday 16 August 2019 17:30 hrs

Mossmorran unplanned flaring - Friday 16 August 2019 17:30 hrs

  • ExxonMobil Chemical Limited and Shell U.K. Limited are not currently using all Best Available Techniques for flaring.
  • ExxonMobil Chemical Limited proposed timescales to increase capacity and accessibility to ground flares unacceptable.
  • Shell U.K. Limited has not sufficiently demonstrated that proposed principles, approach and level of upgrade to the plant would achieve BAT and are therefore unacceptable.
  • SEPA will move within seven days to vary operating permits to include required timescales for the implementation of BAT, and the provision of further detail required.
  • SEPA’s complex regulatory investigation to an evidential standard involving specialist technical, regulatory and enforcement officers will conclude by end November 2019, subject to no new lines of enquiry being uncovered during this phase.
  • SEPA confirmed yesterday that it will fully investigate the current incident. 

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency today (16 August 2019) announced the outcome of its review into ‘Best Available Techniques’ (BAT) assessments by ExxonMobil Chemical Limited and Shell U.K. Limited.

In April 2018, SEPA served ExxonMobil Chemical Limited and Shell U.K Limited with Final Warning Letters regarding flaring which was found to be “preventable and unacceptable”. Following SEPA and Health and Safety investigations in 2018/19 and a tightening of permit conditions, SEPA instructed ExxonMobil Chemical Limited and Shell U.K Limited to conduct Best Available Techniques assessments on 13 June 2018. These assessments were received from both operators on 30 April 2019 and have been subject to a rigorous review by technical specialists.

SEPA’s review of the assessments has found that ExxonMobil Chemical Limited and Shell U.K. Limited are not currently using all Best Available Techniques for flaring. The agency acknowledged ExxonMobil’s recognition of the requirement to upgrade their plant but found that their proposed timescales to increase capacity and accessibility to ground flares were unacceptable. SEPA found that Shell U.K. Limitedhad not sufficiently demonstrated that the proposed principles, approach and level of upgrade to the plant would achieve Best Available Techniques and were also unacceptable.

SEPA will now move within seven days to vary operating permits to include required timescales for the implementation of Best Available Techniques, and timescales for the provision of further details required.

The moves follow the latest incident of unplanned flaring at the Mossmorran site which SEPA confirmed yesterday that it will fully investigate. A first priority is the ongoing investigation into the unplanned flaring that took place in April 2019. The latter is a  complex regulatory investigation to an evidential standard involving specialist technical, regulatory and enforcement officers and will conclude by end November 2019, subject to no new lines of enquiry being uncovered during this phase.

SEPA’s response documents, the proposals from ExxonMobil Chemical Limited and Shell U.K. Limited and SEPA’s latest air quality monitoring summary report from the latest incident have been published at www.sepa.org.uk/mossmorran

Chris Dailly, Head of Environmental Performance at SEPA said:

“SEPA has repeatedly said that compliance with Scotland’s environmental rules is simply non-negotiable. Communities across Fife have had to endure repeated “preventable and unacceptable” flaring.

“We’ve heard clearly the frustration of local people and are today reaching another key milestone in our regulatory response which will drive necessary action to upgrade the site and limit its impact on local communities.

“We’ve published in full the proposals from both companies, our responses and our latest air quality monitoring summary report.  We’ll publish more information next week and are committed to keeping people informed.”

SEPA will continue to provide regular updates across its Mossmorran hub.  Reports of pollution can be made via SEPA’s online reporting tool, available 24/7.

SEPA response letters

BAT Assessments

SEPA monitoring report

ExxonMobil Chemical Limited unplanned flaring 12 - 15 August

Mossmorran unplanned flaring – Thursday 15 August 18:30 hrs

Further to preparatory action overnight, ExxonMobil Chemical Ltd advised the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) mid-morning (Thursday 15 August), that the ExxonMobil Fife Ethylene Plant had successfully been fully shut down.

Multi-agency partners including SEPA, Fife Council, NHS Fife, Health Protection Scotland, Police Scotland and others met this afternoon to assess the situation. ExxonMobil advised that the plant is expected to remain in shutdown for circa four weeks whilst remedial maintenance is undertaken.

SEPA has continued its deployment of air quality and noise monitoring at locations in Lochgelly, Auchtertool and Donibristle for public reassurance.  Monitoring continues to demonstrate air quality in line with expectations of controlled flaring events. SEPA has published a summary monitoring report on its Mossmorran hub.

SEPA today confirmed we will fully investigate the current incident and SEPA will tomorrow (Friday) issue an update on its ongoing regulatory investigation into the incident earlier this year, with clear timelines for completion of that investigation. In addition, tomorrow (Friday) SEPA will give directions to the company on its ‘Best Available Techniques’ (BAT) Assessment.  This will be followed by a significant announcement next week which will drive flaring mitigation investment at the facility.

SEPA will provide regular updates across its Mossmorran hub. Reports of pollution can be made via SEPA’s online reporting tool, available 24/7.

 Unplanned flaring from ExxonMobil Chemical Ltd – Wednesday 14 August 21:15hrs

Further to ongoing flaring at the Fife Ethylene Plant, Mossmorran, ExxonMobil Chemical Ltd has this evening informed SEPA of steps it anticipates taking overnight which are intended to reduce the impact of flaring.

Multi-agency partners including SEPA, Fife Council, NHS Fife and Health Protection Scotland have reviewed the proposals and anticipate a further update on Thursday morning.  The process may feature a short period of smoky flaring in the early hours of Thursday morning.

 AQ monitoring

SEPA is continuing its deployment of air quality and noise monitoring across the evening for public reassurance. Monitoring to date continues to demonstrate a low impact on air quality in line with expectations of controlled flaring events and SEPA will continue to publish monitoring information as quickly as possible.

The focus of a live regulatory investigation, officers continue to gather data to an evidential standard. SEPA expects to make a significant announcement next week which will drive flaring mitigation investment at the facility.

SEPA will provide regular updates across our Mossmorran hub, sepa.org.uk/mossmorran. Reports of pollution can be made via our online reporting tool, available 24/7, sepa.org.uk/report.

The most recent community statement from ExxonMobil Chemical Limited is also available.

Unplanned flaring from ExxonMobil Chemical Ltd – Tuesday 13 August, 16:00hrs

Shortly after midnight on Tuesday morning, ExxonMobil Chemical Ltd informed SEPA of unplanned flaring at the Mossmorran Ethylene Plant, Fife.  This is separate from annual planned maintenance at the Shell facility.

ExxonMobil have advised the flaring relates to a mechanical failure across boilers resulting in a loss of steam generation.   

SEPA has today convened a multi-agency group with Fife Council, NHS Fife and Health Protection Scotland. SEPA officers are in attendance. We have made clear that ExxonMobil must take steps to minimise the impact of flaring that is currently ongoing and which is expected to continue across the evening.

Specialist teams are monitoring air quality and, as with previous incidents, will monitor noise across evenings in line with evidential monitoring standards. Initial air quality monitoring continues to be in line with previous monitoring and shows no cause for concern. 

The focus of a live regulatory investigation, officers are currently gathering data to an evidential standard. A current ‘Best Available Techniques’ assessment and operating permit variations will drive action and flaring mitigation investment at the facility.  SEPA expects to announce more in the coming weeks.

SEPA will provide regular updates across our Mossmorran hub. Reports of pollution can be made via our online reporting tool, available 24/7, sepa.org.uk/report.

The most recent community statement from ExxonMobil Chemical Limited is also available.

Unplanned flaring from ExxonMobil Chemical Limited - 12 August

SEPA is responding to the unplanned flaring from ExxonMobil Chemical Ltd this evening, starting Monday 12 August. We are engaging directly with the operator to understand the cause of the incident and attending surrounding communities to assess local impacts. We will continue to capture air quality data from our existing particulate monitor in Lochgelly and are deploying further monitoring capabilities. Updates will be shared here on our Mossmorran hub and social media.

Reports of pollution can be made via our online reporting tool, available 24/7, sepa.org.uk/report.

The most recent community statement from ExxonMobil Chemical Limited is here.

Shell U.K. Limited - annual turnaround 10 August 2019

Shell U.K. Limited has informed SEPA that it will start its annual ‘turnaround’ at the Shell Fife Natural Gas Liquids (NLG) plant, Mossmorran on Saturday, 10 August. A turnaround is a scheduled event where an entire process unit is taken offline for an extended period of time.

This work will include planned, intermittent use of the elevated flare as part of the procedure to reduce production and carry out planned work on the plant.

This type of flaring is allowed under the site’s PPC permit and is an essential safety feature of the operation of petrochemical plants like Mossmorran

Shell UK Limited will be required to take all necessary actions to ensure compliance with their environmental license during the process. SEPA has been in discussion with Shell UK Limited and will continue to engage closely with site staff over the coming days to ensure flaring is minimised as far as possible

SEPA will be on the ground in the area over the course of the 72 hour period to assess any impacts being experienced and will continue to capture air quality data from our existing monitor in Lochgelly. Wind direction is due to change a number of times between Saturday and Monday, and SEPA will also carry out checks on air quality in different locations over the three days.

Members of the public who are concerned about a potential pollution issue are encouraged to contact our pollution hotline using our online reporting form at sepa.org.uk/report. This is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

The following is part of the community information that has been received from Shell UK Limited.

Planned maintenance and use of flare at Shell Fife NGL plant

Wednesday, 7 August 2019

“This weekend we will start our annual ‘Turnaround’ at the Shell Fife NGL plant, when we will reduce production over a 15-day period in order to carry out planned investment and maintenance on the plant.

 

“As part of this Turnaround, I would like to notify the local community of planned, intermittent use of the Fife NGL elevated flare during a period of 72 hours, beginning 10am on Saturday, 10th of August.

 

“We must use the flare to empty the pipes and vessels on Module 3, which then enables us to complete testing on our safety systems and maintenance on the Module’s safety-critical valves. The plant preparation will be phased in order to minimise the flaring rates as far as possible, including by use of our ground flares.”

The rest of the community notice is available at www.shell.co.uk/about-us/meeting-todays-demands/processing-oil-and-gas/shell-fife-ngl/contact.html   

ExxonMobil Chemical Limited - short period of flaring 2 August 2019

SEPA is aware that a short period of flaring occurred at ExxonMobil Chemical Limited this afternoon (Friday 2 August 2019). Short duration flaring events are allowed under the PPC permit. A SEPA Officer attended the area today and has been advised by ExxonMobil Chemical Limited that no further flaring is expected. Flaring is an essential safety feature of the operation of petrochemical plants like Mossmorran.

ExxonMobil Chemical Limited -short period of flaring 19 July 2019

SEPA is aware that a very short period of elevated flaring occurred at ExxonMobil Chemical Limited at lunchtime today, 19 July 2019.  This lasted for around 15 minutes and we have been informed by the company that the plant is back to routine operation.
 
These short duration flaring events are allowed under the PPC permit and today’s one was in fact below the threshold for notification to SEPA.
 
Contact was however made with both ExxonMobil Chemical Limited and Shell UK Limited by SEPA staff following a report of flaring from a member of the public.  This confirmed that the flaring was very brief and that it did not relate to a plant trip. 
 
Flaring is an essential safety feature of the operation of petrochemical plants like Mossmorran and many will last only a few seconds or minutes.

ExxonMobil Chemical Limited - planned flaring 4 - 6 July

5 July

Flaring from ExxonMobil Chemical's Fife Ethylene Plant, Mossmorran began at approximately 9:30am on Thursday 4 July 2019 and is currently ongoing as part of maintenance work to replace pipework at the facility.

SEPA’s air quality monitors, deployed at locations near Lochgelly and Auchtertool in advance of the flaring, continue to capture air quality data and will remain in place throughout the duration of ExxonMobil Chemical Ltd's maintenance work.

An initial assessment of controlled flaring from the last 24 hour period has indicated a low impact on air quality. This is consistent with our expectations of controlled flaring and there are no concerns associated with these levels. SEPA is clear that environmental compliance is non-negotiable and both air quality and noise monitoring data will continue to be assessed by SEPA officers over the weekend. It is our intention to provide a short summary report on the impact of this monitoring once maintenance work has been completed and the controlled flaring has stopped.

Planned Flaring 5 July 2019

All updates will be published here on our Mossmorran hub. Reports of pollution can be made via our online reporting tool, available 24/7, sepa.org.uk/report.

The most recent Community Statement from ExxonMobil Chemical Ltd is below. The operator is sharing updates from the company's Twitter account.

Previous updates from SEPA relating to the planned flaring at Mossmorran, notified on Sunday 30 June are available below:

Thursday 4 July

Maintenance is now underway, Thursday 4 July, at ExxonMobil Chemical's Fife Ethylene Plant, Mossmorran and, as a result, is flaring via both ground and elevated fares.

In response to the notification received on Sunday 30 June and community concerns, SEPA has deployed monitoring equipment to capture air quality data. This is now operational at sites in Auchtertool and Lochgelly, which are aligned with the forecast wind direction for the week so that local impacts are assessed. Noise monitoring is also being undertaken in Lochgelly and SEPA officers will attend the local area to assess impacts.

SEPA will provide an update on the initial findings of the air quality monitoring once data has been collated and analysed.

Flaring _Started

All updates will be published here on our Mossmorran hub. Reports of pollution can be made via our online reporting tool, available 24/7, sepa.org.uk/report.

The most recent Community Statement from ExxonMobil Chemical Ltd is below. The operator is sharing updates from the company's Twitter account.

ExxonMobil Chemical Ltd Community Statement

Date: Thursday 4 July 2019

Dear Community Member

Our planned essential maintenance is now underway and, as a result, we are operating our elevated flare.

The actions we have taken have achieved a reduced flare volume, and our team will now work round-the-clock to complete the work safely and as quickly as possible.

For information about flaring at FEP please visit our website, or Email: fep@exxonmobil.com.

Regards,

Jacob McAlister
Plant Manager

Wednesday 3 July

SEPA received notification from ExxonMobil Chemical Ltd on Sunday, 30 June 2019 of their intention to undertake controlled flaring at the Mossmorran Fife Ethylene Plant from Monday, 1 July 2019, for a period of no more than five days. Further to this announcement, the operator delayed the commencement of the planned works, which is due to start shortly.

In response to this notification and community concerns, SEPA has deployed monitoring equipment to capture air quality data once flaring begins and will be operational from the start of the flaring period at sites in Auchtertool, which are aligned with the forecast wind direction for the week so that local impacts are assessed.

SEPA officers will also attend the local area to assess impacts and noise monitoring will be undertaken to gather an initial assessment of the flaring.

SEPA will provide an update on the initial findings of the air quality monitoring once data has been collated and analysed.

All updates will be published here on our Mossmorran hub. Reports of pollution can be made via our online reporting tool, available 24/7, sepa.org.uk/report.

ExxonMobil Chemicals Ltd are sharing updates from the company's Twitter account.

Sunday 30 June

SEPA has received notification today (30 June 2019) from ExxonMobil Chemical Ltd of their intention to undertake planned and controlled flaring at the Mossmorran Fife Ethylene Plant from Monday, 1 July 2019, for a period of no more than five days.

It is understood that flaring is to be minimised as far as possible, and is part of essential maintenance at the site to replace a section of pipe.

SEPA has been in discussion with ExxonMobil today and will continue to engage closely with site staff over the coming days to ensure flaring is minimised as far as possible. SEPA will also continue to work with Fife Council and NHS Fife throughout the event and ensure local communities are kept informed of any developments.

 The following Community Statement has been issued by ExxonMobil Chemical Ltd this afternoon to local communities surrounding the Mossmorran facility:

ExxonMobil Chemical Ltd Community Statement

Date: Sunday 30 June 2019

Dear Community Member,

To allow us to safely conduct work to replace a section of pipe at the Fife Ethylene Plant, our elevated flare will be in operation from tomorrow for a period anticipated to be no more than five days.

To actively minimise amenity impact, we have taken the significant step of reducing gas input to the plant to ensure the flare is operating with a reduced volume. We will also work round-the-clock to complete this essential work as safely and quickly as possible.

While absolutely understanding that flaring can cause community concern, I believe we share the same commitment to continued safe operations and that this should always be the overriding priority.

I can reassure you that flaring is a safe and permitted part of the plant’s safety and operating systems, and allows us to maintain steady operations during the work.

SEPA, HSE and other regulatory and stakeholder partners have been advised.

For information about flaring at FEP please visit our website, or Email: fep@exxonmobil.com.

As we have always indicated, we strive to avoid the use of flaring but there is a need to do so on this occasion. We apologise to anyone concerned by the flaring, and thank our local communities for their patience and understanding.

We will keep you fully updated on progress with this essential work

Regards,

Jacob McAlister
Plant Manager

ExxonMobil Chemical Limited - unplanned flaring 29 June

29 June

At 09:40 this morning (Saturday 29 June 2019), SEPA was notified by Exxonmobil Chemical Ltd of unplanned flaring at Mossmorran, Fife, as a result of a temperature issue on site.

Further notification was received at 10:45 to confirm that the flaring had stopped and that intermittent flaring had last approximately 1 hour.

SEPA officers have been in contact with ExxonMobil and will continue to liaise with the site operators to understand the cause of the incident.

ExxonMobil Chemical Limited - unplanned flaring 14 June

14 June

At 10:05 this morning (Friday 14 June 2019), SEPA was notified by Exxonmobil Chemical Ltd of unplanned flaring at Mossmorran, Fife.

SEPA activated a full operational response, including multi-agency co-ordination, regulatory and air quality monitoring.  Reflecting scientific best practice on current and predicted wind patterns, air quality monitoring was deployed at Lochgelly Fire Station.  Monitoring is being conducted for PM10, PM2.5 and benzene.

Also reflecting scientific best practice, noise monitoring is conducted against a set of standards.  These standards focus on evening and overnight noise monitoring which ensures results are not affected by background noise interference and reflect the time of likely greatest impact.

Further to direct engagement with site management, Exxonmobil Chemical Ltd advised that normal operations resumed at 15:25 and unplanned flaring had ceased.

SEPA regulatory and air quality teams are continuing monitoring.  SEPA will provide a further update on the results on Monday 17 June.

SEPA’s full, formal regulatory investigation, announced on 25 April, remains underway and continues to gather evidence.  Following SEPA and Health and Safety Executive investigations in 2018/2019, SEPA moved to tighten permit conditions and instructed ‘Best Available Techniques’ (BAT) assessments to look at ways to prevent, or where that is not practicable, reduce the impact of flaring.

These were received by SEPA by the deadline and are available to view on the public register

Reflecting the desire for additional monitoring information, SEPA announced on 17 May that further permit variations will be served on ExxonMobil Chemical Limited and Shell UK Limited to design a programme of monitoring to assess the impacts of flaring on the local community and the environment - including air quality, noise and vibration.

SEPA will scrutinise that the proposed programme has been developed in conjunction with community stakeholders and will immediately publish this following receipt.  Providing it is suitably robust SEPA will require the companies to implement it.

SEPA operates a 24hr Pollution Hotline.  Reports can be submitted at https://apps.sepa.org.uk/EnvironmentalEvents or on 0800 80 70 60

A further update will be published on Monday 17 June 2019 at sepa.org.uk/mossmorran

SEPA is aware of currently unplanned flaring at the ExxonMobil Chemical Complex, Mossmorran, Fife. SEPA officers are responding and are currently seeking to establish further information, including cause and duration. We’ll provide as much information, as quickly as possible, on social media and at our sepa.org.uk/mossmorran information hub. 24 hour pollution reporting: sepa.org.uk/report and 0800 80 70 60.

ExxonMobil Chemical Limited - flaring community update 17 May

  • Formal regulatory investigation into April 2019 flaring underway.
  • Over 900 complaints were received to date by SEPA’s 24 hour Pollution Hotline, one of the highest number for any single event.
  • SEPA confirms the “level and extent of flaring is wholly unacceptable.”
  • Move by SEPA follows ‘Final Warning Letters’ issued to ExxonMobil Chemical Ltd in April 2018 regarding flaring which was found to be “preventable and unacceptable”.
  • It also follows SEPA and Health and Safety Executive investigations in 2018/2019, a tightening of permit conditions and an instruction to conduct a ‘Best Available Techniques’ (BAT) assessment.
  • BAT Assessments were received from both operators on 30 April 2019 which are currently the subject of rigorous review by technical specialists.
  • BAT Assessment are now available to view on the public register via www.sepa.org.uk/mossmorran
  • SEPA today (17 May 2019) announced that further permit variations will be served on ExxonMobil Chemical Limited and Shell UK Limited to design a programme of monitoring to assess the impacts of flaring on the local community and the environment.
  • Whilst subject to a formal regulatory investigation, SEPA has a full range of enforcement powers available and will utilise these to require the impact of flaring be reduced

The unprecedented number of complaints we received is a clear message that the impacts on people’s lives is a major concern. SEPA has heard this message powerfully and clearly.

Full regulatory investigation

On Sunday 21 April SEPA received complaints from members of the public about flaring from the Mossmorran Complex. The flaring continued until Saturday 27 April.

A formal regulatory investigation into April 2019 flaring is underway which will take time to complete. The nature of a live investigation means there is some information that cannot be provided as quickly as people would like.

We appreciate this can be frustrating, but ask that you understand that gathering and protecting potential evidence is of the utmost importance.

SEPA officers have already contacted some members of the public who contacted us to record the impacts this flaring had on them. Understanding the real impacts provided by local communities, families and individuals is vitally important and this work is ongoing.

Following completion of the investigation SEPA will use its enforcement policy to decide what action should be taken. SEPA has a range of enforcement options including serving notices requiring specific action to be taken through to the submission of a report to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service recommending prosecution of an environmental offence.

Requirement for a programme of monitoring

SEPA today (17 May 2019) announced that further permit variations will be served on ExxonMobil Chemical Limited and Shell UK Limited to design a programme of monitoring to assess the impacts of flaring on the local community and the environment - including air quality, noise and vibration.

We expect there to be a high level of community engagement in the development of the programme.

The companies will be expected to consult widely to ensure:

  • monitoring will provide the information required to carry out the necessary impact assessment;
  • the most appropriate technology and contractors are used to develop public confidence.

SEPA will scrutinise the proposed programme and make it publicly available. Providing it is suitably robust we will require the companies to implement it.

The date by which these proposals must be submitted will be contained within the Variations.

Best Available Techniques (BAT) Assessments

As part of the Permit Variations served by SEPA in 2018, both ExxonMobil Chemical Limited and Shell UK Limited were required to complete BAT Assessments to consider the ways in which they can prevent, or where that is not practicable, reduce the impact of flaring.

These were received by SEPA by the deadline and are available to view on the public register

While SEPA has conducted an initial review of the BAT Assessments, these are technical documents and we need sufficient time to analyse them in depth.  However, these assessments provide a significant opportunity and it is vital that both operators take this opportunity to deliver real changes.

SEPA will require the operators to take action to ensure they are using Best Available Techniques and any flaring is undertaken without unacceptable impacts on the community.

Working with partners

SEPA is working with a number of public agency partners in relation to the regulation of the of the Mossmorran complex in Fife. We will continue to liaise with the Health and Safety Executive, Fife Council, Health Protection Scotland and NHS Fife to share whatever information we can to ensure the impacts are understood and the regulatory controls are appropriate and effective.

The Mossmorran and Braefoot Bay Independent Air Quality Monitoring Review Group will also continue to play a key role and SEPA recently carried out a three month programme of continuous air quality monitoring to provide information to this group and its members. Further details are available in our April 2019 monitoring report, published on the Mossmorran Hub.

Monitoring during the recent flaring event

  • On 21 April SEPA staff attended locations around Cowdenbeath and Lochgelly to witness the flaring and experience the impacts. This work happened throughout the flaring event.

  • Our air quality and noise monitoring team were deployed in the area with SEPA CEO, Terry A’Hearn on 22 April. Further monitoring was carried out during the flaring event.

  • Information on the air quality monitoring SEPA carried out is available in our SEPA monitoring report for April 2019.

  • We will continue to develop our monitoring response in conjunction with Fife Council, NHS Fife and through engagement with the local community.

 

BAT Assessments received - 1 May 2019

SEPA can confirm the Best Available Techniques (BAT) assessments from Shell UK Limited and ExxonMobil Chemical Limited were received yesterday. Following a review of the proposals, we will provide an update ahead of the community meeting on Friday 17 May - which we will attend.

ExxonMobil Chemical Limited - unplanned flaring 21 - 27 April

Community update on Mossmorran flaring - 30 April 2019

On Saturday, 27 April, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency was informed by ExxonMobil Chemical Limited that elevated flaring had ceased. The update followed the announcement by SEPA on Thursday 25 April 2019 of a formal regulatory investigation into the flaring from the Mossmorran petrochemical plant in Fife. Read the full Community update on Mossmorran flaring

Mossmorran flaring - 27 April 2019

On Saturday, 27 April, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency was informed by ExxonMobil Chemical Limited that elevated flaring had ceased. Exxon further advised ground flaring was continuing ‘above normal levels’ for a ‘short period’. Read our full media release Mossmorran flaring community update

SEPA launches formal regulatory investigation - 25 April 2019

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency has today (25 April 2019) announced a formal regulatory investigation into the ongoing flaring from ExxonMobil Chemical Limited at the Mossmorran petrochemical plant in Fife. Read the full media release SEPA launches formal regulatory investigation into ExxonMobil Chemical Limited unplanned flaring as complaints exceed 600

Mossmorran flaring - 22 April 2019

SEPA's CEO, Terry A'Hearn, attended the air quality monitoring site in Cowdenbeath as part of our response to the unplanned flaring at ExxonMobil Chemical Ltd, at Mossmorran in Fife. Read our full statement Flaring at Mossmorran complex, Fife

Mossmorran flaring - 21 April 2019

SEPA Officers have continued to respond across the day to unplanned flaring at the Mossmorran complex, Fife. ExxonMobil Chemical Ltd have provided an initial update advising they have stabilised the flow of steam to the flare - removing the early dark smoke. With Exxon advising flaring is likely to continue over the coming days, SEPA will continue its operational response across the duration of the incident, including re-deploying air quality monitoring equipment. Whilst at an early stage we will provide as much information as quickly as possible. Report environmental incidents online at apps.sepa.org.uk/EnvironmentalEvents or call our 24 Hour Pollution Hotline on 0800 80 70 60.

Useful documents

Air Quality Monitoring Reports

Ongoing monitoring reports

Event reports

Three month monitoring reports

BAT Assessments

Final Warning Letters

Permit Variations

Community leaflet

Mossmorran newsletter

SEPA is committed to keeping the local communities around Mossmorran informed. Sign up to our newsletter to be emailed the latest updates.

Read the latest on the Mossmorran and Braefoot Bay complexes

You can read previous Mossmorran newsletters online

Mossmorran Complex investigation update - 27 February 2019

SEPA has completed its investigation into a number of unplanned flaring events at the Mossmorran Complex during 2017 and 2018.

Whilst flaring is an important safety mechanism and is permitted through permit conditions, the impact of any flaring events must be mitigated so as not to have an unacceptable impact on local communities.

SEPA remains clear that the flaring in June 2017 was both preventable and unacceptable and Final Warning Letters were issued to ExxonMobil Chemical Ltd and Shell UK Ltd in that regard. Communities experienced further unplanned flaring in October 2017, March 2018 and again in May 2018.

Read the full Mossmorran Complex investigation update

Flaring at Mossmorran - previous updates

Please follow this link to view previous updates on flaring incidents.

Site activities

Shell UK operates the Fife Natural Gas Liquids (FNGL) Mossmorran Fractionation Plant near Cowdenbeath in Fife that extracts natural gasoline, ethane, propane and butane from natural gas liquids pumped from the St Fergus gas plant at Peterhead. Three identical processes separate the different components.

Ethane is forwarded to the adjacent ExxonMobil Chemical Limited Fife Ethylene Plant (FEP), Mossmorran where it is converted into ethylene by steam cracking.

The products from both sites are transported by pipeline or road tanker, predominantly to the Shell UK Limited and ExxonMobil Chemical Limited Braefoot Bay marine terminal on the Firth of Forth near Aberdour in Fife, where it is shipped. Some of the ethylene produced is distributed via the UK ethylene pipeline to other manufacturing plants in the UK.

Regulation

Pollution Prevention and Control (PPC) (Scotland) Regulations 2012 (PPC)

Shell UK Fife NGL and ExxonMobil Chemical Limited FEP at Mossmorran and ExxonMobil Chemical Limited at Braefoot Bay are regulated under the PPC. The regulations permit and regulate many industrial activities that may pollute our environment. Licences, known as permits, set strict conditions that must be met to prevent or reduce any impact on the environment. For FNGL and FEP at Mossmorran the PPC Permits include specific conditions on flaring including a requirement to provide an incident report for any significant unplanned flaring. Similar licences are in place for ExxonMobil Chemical Limited at Braefoot Bay although these are less complex. We carry out regular inspections of both facilities and reviews monitoring and other returns to check compliance.

Annual compliance is also assessed using our Compliance Assessment Scheme and the results published on our website. For Mossmorran sites search under ‘Fife Ethylene Plant’ or ‘Fife NGL Plant’; and for Braefoot Bay search under ‘ExxonMobil Chemical Limited’.

Control of Major Accident Hazard (COMAH) Regulations 1999

The Shell UK and Exxon Mobil Chemical Limited Sites at Mossmorran and Braefoot Bay also fall under the COMAH Regulations which are jointly regulated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and SEPA as the Competent Authority. Qualifying sites are divided into Lower Tier and Top Tier sites based on quantities of dangerous substances held on the site.

The Mossmorran and Braefoot Bay sites are classed as Upper Tier sites due to the quantities of highly flammable substances present. As such they must submit a Safety Report every five years which demonstrates the implementation of safety management systems to prevent major accidents and limit their consequences to people and the environment.

Further information on COMAH is available on the Health and Safety Executive website

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 focus on the environmental aspects of incidents although there is often an overlap with safety aspects considered under COMAH by the HSE.

Air quality and SEPA position statement

Extensive air quality monitoring has demonstrated that concentrations of benzene and other hydrocarbons are consistently low in the vicinity of the facilities at Mossmorran and Braefoot Bay.

There was local concern over the perceived impact of the Little Raith Wind Farm on the dispersion of air emissions from the Mossmorran complex during normal operation and flaring. Concentrations of benzene measured in the vicinity of the plant were low throughout 2012 and are similar to those you would expect to find in a typical rural setting. The concentrations were well below the Air Quality Standards before and after the turbines came into operation.

We have published the following position statement.

Community liaison

We participate in the following external meetings with other organisations:

  • Mossmorran and Braefoot Bay Community and Safety Committee
    These community liaison meetings are held once a quarter and are attended by local councillors, representatives from local community councils, SEPA, ExxonMobil Chemical Limited, Shell UK and Fife Council. The minutes of the meetings should be made publically available to members of local communities through community council meetings, local libraries and the Fife Direct webpage.

  • Mossmorran and Braefoot Bay Independent Air Quality Monitoring Review Group
    The Mossmorran & Braefoot Bay Independent Air Quality Monitoring (IAQM) Review Group advises Fife Council regarding the quality of ambient air associated with air emissions from operations at the Mossmorran plants and the Braefoot Bay terminal facilities.

Of particular relevance are issues relating to any health concerns raised by residents within the local communities and a key role is assisting with the communication of information relating to environmental air quality. The IAQM Review Group is independently chaired and includes representatives from Fife Health Board, SEPA, Fife Council, the Institute of Occupational Medicine and community representatives. The Group meet twice per year and publishes an annual report which is available from the Fife Direct webpage.

Incidents, complaints and enquiries

Members of the public who are concerned about a potential pollution issue are encouraged to contact our pollution hotline on 0800 80 70 60. This is 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We aim to follow up all complaints within 24 hours.

Frequently asked questions

 


Who is SEPA working with regarding Mossmorran?

The site is regulated by a number of organisations including the local authority, SEPA, and the Health and Safety Executive. We also consult with NHS Fife, Health Protection Scotland and Forth Ports in order to gain information and views to support our regulatory work.

You can see more about SEPA-specific regulatory activities under the section titled ‘Regulation’ above

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 cannot be justified on all occasions and the focus for us as a regulator is on ensuring compliance and working with the companies at Mossmorran to minimise the need to flare and to reduce the impacts.

We are reviewing arrangements for monitoring these events both proactively and reactively. We will also review the monitoring undertaken by the company and if necessary we will require the company to undertake additional monitoring. We will engage with the local community to inform our view as to what is required.

Copies of our monitoring reports are available in the Useful documents section of our Mossmorran Hub.

Why do Shell UK and ExxonMobil Chemical Limited at Mossmorran need to flare?

The 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. The flare systems include:

  • two 80 metre high flares at Shell FNGL;
  • one 100 metre high flare at ExxonMobil FEP;
  • two ground flares which are operated by Shell FNGL but used by both sites as required.

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, both operators at Mossmorran are required to provide an annual report to SEPA. A summary of the data provided to SEPA for the years 2008 to 2016 is available below (some additional comments have been taken from the Independent Air Quality Review Group reports):

This data is used as part of the regulatory controls applied by SEPA to both operators under their PPC permits. Flaring incidents must also be notified to SEPA and an incident report submitted (normally 1-2 pages in length) which SEPA then follows up directly with the relevant operator.

Under the Energy Act 1976 and Petroleum Act 1998, Shell are also required to have consents in place from the Oil and Gas Authority for flaring and venting of hydrocarbons.

What are the constituents of the flare?

The main constituents of the FEP flare are ethylene and/ or ethane. Other hydrocarbons may also be present as well as hydrogen, nitrogen and steam.

What restrictions are in place on flaring and why is the flare occasionally smoky?

ExxonMobil Chemical Limited at FEP and Shell UK at FNGL 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.

In general the visual and noise impact of flaring is minimised by using the ground flares; forward planning to maximise flaring during daylight hours; and, minimising the amount of material to be flared. However when the ground flares are 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.

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.

Both the ground and elevated flares have restrictions on flaring in their PPC permit which prevent flaring of dark smoke for greater than 15 minutes.

Any major flaring resulting in burning of hydrocarbon above 5 tonnes per hour for a period of 30 minutes also requires 7 days prior notification to SEPA.

Any major flaring which is not notified in advance, requires 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.

What are the impacts to health of flaring?

A modelling study undertaken in 2009 assessed the impact of emissions during flaring and normal process emissions from Fife Ethylene Plant and Fife Natural Gas Liquids plant at Mossmorran, both separately and in combination.

The following pollutants were assessed:

  • carbon monoxide (CO);
  • oxides of nitrogen (NOx as NO2);
  • fine particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5);
  • sulphur dioxide (SO2); 
  • volatile organic compounds (VOCs) including benzene and 1, 3 butadiene.

The study concluded that the long and short term predicted environmental concentrations of all of the pollutants considered were well within the air quality standards for the protection of human health.

The modelling work supports the findings of an earlier ambient monitoring study undertaken by FEP to assess emissions of VOCs and fine particulate matter (PM10) between 21 August 2008 and 1 October 2008.

The study was carried out by an independent contractor, The National Physical Laboratory (NPL) and all the data was submitted to the Air Quality Monitoring Review Group for independent analysis. This included a period of elevated flaring on 5 and 6 September 2008 during which specific VOC samples were collected.

Measured concentrations of PM10, benzene and 1,3 butadiene were all within the relevant air quality standards for the protection of human health.

What responsibilities do SEPA have regarding air quality?

Local authorities have a statutory duty to review and assess local air quality in their area against the air quality objectives for various pollutants (including benzene) 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.

We have a statutory responsibility to ensure that regulated processes do not result in, or contribute to, an exceedence of European air quality objectives.

What is the impact to health of emissions from the Mossmorran Complex?

We are currently satisfied that the emissions from the Mossmorran complex are not having a detrimental impact on air quality in the local communities. Several modelling and monitoring studies have shown that the concentrations of benzene and other pollutants are currently well below the air quality objectives at local residential areas. This conclusion is backed up by the Mossmorran and Braefoot Bay Independent Air Monitoring Review Group referred to above.

What is the impact of Little Raith Wind Farm on the air emissions from Mossmorran?

Ambient monitoring was undertaken at Little Raith Farm, Lochgelly and Cowdenbeath between January 2011 and March 2013 by the wind farm developer Kennedy Renewables. The monitoring results indicate that Little Raith Wind farm is having no negative impact on the dispersion of air emissions from Mossmorran. Measured concentrations of benzene following the commissioning of the wind farm in September 2013 were no higher than the concentrations measured prior to installation, and were consistent with typical rural background levels.

A final report on the monitoring undertaken by the wind-farm developer, Kennedy Renewables was published in January 2014.

We published the report -  Impact of Little Raith Windfarm on air emissions from Mossmorran.