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Flaring at Mossmorran - previous updates

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2019

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 our Environmental Events form or call our 24 Hour Pollution Hotline on 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 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 - 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 -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 - 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.

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 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.

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

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

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.

 

ExxonMobil Chemical Limited - Plant warm up - 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   

SEPA Mossmorran investigation in final stages as agency’s regulation drives investment to make flaring “the exception rather than routine”

SEPA Mossmorran investigation in final stages as agency’s regulation drives investment to make flaring “the exception rather than routine”

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) today (19 December 2019) updated stakeholders on the progress of its regulatory investigation into “unacceptable” flaring by ExxonMobil Chemical Limited during April 2019. 

The agency also outlined the steps it continues to take to tackle the unacceptable impacts of flaring from the operation of the Mossmorran facility. 

Regulatory investigation in final stages

On Thursday 25 April 2019 the SEPA announced a formal regulatory investigation into the unacceptable flaring from the ExxonMobil Chemical Limited site in Fife that started on Sunday 21 April.

SEPA today announced that the investigation is now in the final stages. A small number of interviews remain to be conducted and a further update will be provided in the new year.

Operating permit variations

SEPA has served a series of permit variations to lock in compliance at Mossmorran and reduce flaring impacts. The operating permit variations served on ExxonMobil Chemical Limited and Shell U.K. Limited have required both operators to achieve ‘Best Available Techniques’ in the shortest timeframe possible.

The variations will require investments in equipment that reduces the impacts of flaring on local communities when flaring 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 most disturbance to local people.

New infrastructure

SEPA expects investment in noise-reducing flare tips and fully enclosed ground flare technologies at Mossmorran and that these will significantly reduce the impact on the rare occasions when flaring is necessary.

Noise reducing flare tips are to be installed by the operators within the following timescales:

  • ExxonMobil Chemical Limited in 2020
  • Shell U.K. Limited in 2021

ExxonMobil Chemical Limited has committed to optimising timescales to install new ground flares - which will significantly address impacts from flaring. SEPA welcomes the £140 million investment announced by ExxonMobil Chemical Limited and the assurances that reliability and performance will improve.

Shell U.K. Limited must provide SEPA with a project plan by the end of January 2020 for their future use of ground flares. SEPA is currently reviewing the detailed plans for the installation of ground flares that were received from ExxonMobil Chemical Limited at the end of October 2019.

Monitoring

SEPA continues to monitor air quality around Mossmorran. Regular reports have been published on our Mossmorran Hub and the results from these consistently show that levels of particulate matter are well within daily (UK) Air Quality Standards.

Currently, SEPA has air quality monitoring equipment at Lochgelly, Auchtertool and Donibristle. These locations ensure that we can monitor in local communities and take account of changes in wind direction. It also means we can monitor both upwind and downwind of the Mossmorran Complex.

SEPA is planning for these monitors to stay in place whilst the investments are made at Mossmorran. SEPA is also working alongside partner agencies with air quality responsibilities to assess future requirements.

Noise monitoring has also been carried out by SEPA in response to unplanned flaring. The data from this monitoring is associated with our regulatory investigations and cannot be published at this time.

If you do not have access to the internet and would like copies of our Air Quality Summary Reports, please contact 03000 99 66 99.

ExxonMobil Chemical Limited restart

ExxonMobil Chemical Limited has confirmed that the safe, responsible and considered re-start of the Fife Ethylene Plant at Mossmorran will now occur in January.  SEPA has been advised of limited, low-volume flaring at Mossmorran on Sunday 22 December as ExxonMobil Chemical Limited prepares for this start-up. We will continue to monitor air quality throughout.

Further to detailed dialogue with the operator, SEPA welcomes the commitment to pause re-start operations during the Christmas and New Year period, and to work to minimise the impact of those operations on in the New Year.

In addition to an active programme of communications from the company, SEPA’s specialist regulatory and scientific officers will fully monitor the re-start.  We’ll provide regular updates during the re-start and will publish monitoring information as quickly as possible on sepa.org.uk/mossmorran

For more information

SEPA will continue take the action needed to ensure that the operators of the Mossmorran Complex (both ExxonMobil Chemical Limited and Shell UK Limited) make the investment needed to address the root causes of unacceptable flaring and mitigations.

We would like to thank everyone who has taken the time to help us understand the impacts of this flaring during our active investigation.

For further information, including a copy of our recently distributed community newsletter visit 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

 

2018

Shell U.K. Limited - unplanned flaring 23 February 2020

Shell U.K. Limited - unplanned flaring 23 February 2018

We have been informed that flaring is occurring at Shell Mossmorran. This is expected to cease this evening.

ExxonMobil Chemical Limited - unplanned flaring 23 - 27 March 2018

27 March 2018 - At around 01.30 hrs on Monday 26 March flaring ceased at the ExxonMobil Chemical Fife Ethylene Plant at Mossmorran.

SEPA is clear that environmental compliance is non-negotiable and the air quality and noise monitoring SEPA staff undertook across the weekend was to assess impact of flaring and inform our future regulatory approach with the site.

Whilst currently restricted in what we are able to communicate at this time, to avoid any prejudice to any potential enforcement action, SEPA will openly notify community stakeholders in relation to our enforcement decisions as soon as this is possible.

24 March 2018 - We have responded quickly to the initial notification of flaring on 23 March and undertook monitoring and assessments. SEPA officers will attend the local community to help ensure the environment is protected and the community is well informed.

23 March 2018 - SEPA was informed on Friday 23 March by ExxonMobil Chemical Limited at Mossmorran that flaring was required due to a process upset that requires a re-start of the plant.

Flaring is necessary to ensure the continued safe operation of the plant, but the impact must be mitigated. SEPA works every day to protect Scotland’s environment and responded quickly to the initial notification on Friday by mobilising a range of environment protection, air quality and noise monitoring teams. Specialist teams have continued to work around the clock, during mornings, evenings and into the night across the weekend as part of an ongoing regulatory investigation.

We're disappointed that flaring has continued across the weekend and with the impacts this has had on local communities. We are clear that environmental compliance is non-negotiable and the air quality and noise monitoring SEPA staff are undertaking is to assess impact of flaring and inform our future regulatory approach with the site.

Whilst currently restricted in what we are able to communicate at this time, to avoid any prejudice to any potential enforcement action, our officers are speaking with people in local communities and our 24 hour pollution line (0800 80 70 60) continues to receive calls. We’re also sharing as much information as possible on this page, our dedicated Mossmorran hub.

We will provide as much information as we can on the results of this monitoring as soon as it is possible.

SEPA, in addition to other public agencies, is jointly responsible for the regulation of ExxonMobil Chemical Limited and Shell UK Limited at Mossmorran.

Martin Grey from SEPA provides an update on the current flaring from ExxonMobil Chemical Limited at Mossmorran - goo.gl/odUZom

23 March 2018 - We have been informed that flaring is anticipated for the next 48 hours due to an operational upset on the main compressor. SEPA officers are engaging with the operator and will be attending the area this morning.

ExxonMobil Chemical Limited and Shell U.K. Limited served Final Warning Letters

ExxonMobil Chemical Limited and Shell U.K. Limited served Final Warning Letters - 19 April 2018

Petrochemical companies ExxonMobil Chemical Ltd and Shell UK Limited have been served with Final Warning Letters by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) following an enhanced unplanned flaring event at the Mossmorran complex in Fife, during June 2017.

SEPA found residents were subject to considerable disturbance in their homes from noise, vibration and black smoke over the seven-day period in Summer 2017, during which a total of 74 complaints were received by the agency.

While the Final Warning Letters brings to a close SEPA’s regulatory investigation for June 2017, unplanned flaring events which took place in October 2017 and March 2018 are still under investigation.

The Final Warning Letters issued to ExxonMobil Chemical Ltd and Shell UK Limited are available to view below:

ExxonMobil Chemical Ltd - Final Warning Letter - April 2018

Shell UK Limited - Final Warning Letter - April 2018

ExxonMobil Chemical Limited - unplanned flaring 19 - 24 May 2018

24 May

SEPA has been notified by ExxonMobil Chemical Ltd that flaring at Mossmorran has now ceased.

In response to the latest flaring incident, SEPA mobilised a full response, including air quality and noise monitoring, to assess local impacts. We have launched a formal investigation.

We are clear that compliance is non-negotiable, and will continue to use our regulatory influence at all levels.

SEPA operates a 24 hour Pollution Hotline (0800 80 70 60).

22 May 2018

ExxonMobil Chemical Ltd at Mossmorran advised SEPA on Saturday 19 May of flaring at the Fife Ethylene Plant due to a mechanical issue with an onsite pump. SEPA mobilised a full response.

We have received an update from Exxonmobil this afternoon that they are working to resume normal operations and note that their current outlook is that elevated flaring will cease on Thursday.   

We are continuing to work with the operator, and engage with elected members and partner agencies. We are committed to keeping the community up-to-date with the latest information.

SEPA operates a 24 hour Pollution Hotline (0800 80 70 60) for members of the public. We’re sharing information on this page, our dedicated Mossmorran hub and across social media.

A community statement has been issued by ExxonMobil Chemical Ltd.

20 May 2018

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, 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 this page, our dedicated Mossmorran hub and across social media.

19 May 2018 - ExxonMobil Chemical Ltd at Mossmorran this evening advised SEPA of flaring at the Fife Ethylene Plant due to a mechanical issue with an onsite pump. SEPA Officers are engaging with the operators and will monitor against the site's licence conditions. SEPA operates a 24 hour Pollution Hotline (0800 80 70 60).

SEPA and Health & Safety Executive announce joint investigation into Mossmorran complex at community meeting as operating permit variations to be served on operators - 8 June 2018

SEPA and Health & Safety Executive announce joint investigation into Mossmorran complex at community meeting as operating permit variations to be served on operators - 8 June 2018

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) & the Health and Safety Executive today (Friday 8th June 2018) announced a joint investigation into ExxonMobil Chemical Ltd and Shell UK Limited, the operators of the Mossmorran petrochemical plants in Fife.

The move follows the serving of Final Warning Letters on both companies by the agency in April 2018 related to “preventable and unacceptable” unplanned flaring during June 2017. 

Operating permit variations are to be served on ExxonMobil Chemical Ltd and Shell UK Limited following a review announced in April, to strengthen noise and vibration controls.  These will be published on SEPA’s website next week. 

Hearing first-hand accounts of the constituency MP, MSPs, Councillors and communities, SEPA Chief Executive, Terry A’Hearn, explained why October, March and May flaring incidents and monitoring data required to remain under investigation to avoid prejudice to future enforcement action.

Speaking after the community meeting in Kirkcaldy, SEPA Chief Executive, Terry A’Hearn, said:

“Every day, SEPA works to protect and enhance Scotland’s environment and compliance with Scotland’s environmental rules is simply non-negotiable.  

“We were clear that unplanned flaring in June 2017 was preventable and unacceptable and we issued final warnings to both companies in that regard.  Despite that, communities have endured further unplanned flaring in October, March and again in May.

“We’ve listened carefully to community calls for a root and branch review and today’s announcement of a joint investigation by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) & the Health & Safety Executive will examine issues at both sites.

“But more than that, in April we promised a review of operating permits.  Operating permit variations will be served on ExxonMobil Chemical Ltd and Shell UK in the next week.  These permits are legal documents which set out what each operator must do under law. 

“It’s right that people want to know more about October, March and May flaring incidents.  That said, people want action not words which is why I’ve come personally to explain why these incidents remain under investigation and why we need to avoid prejudice to future enforcement action.

“We’re listening to the community and it’s important the companies do too.”

24 May -SEPA has been notified by ExxonMobil Chemical Ltd that flaring at Mossmorran has now ceased.

In response to the latest flaring incident, SEPA mobilised a full response, including air quality and noise monitoring, to assess local impacts. We have launched a formal investigation.

We are clear that compliance is non-negotiable, and will continue to use our regulatory influence at all levels.

SEPA operates a 24 hour Pollution Hotline (0800 80 70 60).

2017

June 2017 flaring investigation

June 2017 flaring investigation

SEPA received a considerable number of complaints from members of the public regarding flaring from the Mossmorran Complex (Shell and ExxonMobil) between 12 and 24 June. An investigation is currently underway.

Rob Morris, SEPA Area Manager, attended a meeting of the Mossmorran Action Group on 5 July.

"This was a very important opportunity for me as a representative of SEPA to meet and hear from those who have been affected by recent flaring at the Mossmorran petrochemical complex. It also allowed me to explain our regulatory role and some of what will happen next.

"A team of SEPA technical and enforcement specialists who are independent of regulating the site on a day-to-day basis will be carrying out a full investigation. SEPA gave commitment last night to giving future updates on how it is progressing with its investigations whilst stressing the importance of gathering appropriate evidence to inform any future enforcement actions."

 

SEPA response to local coverage in June

SEPA response to local coverage in June

The following letter was submitted to the Courier and Central Fife Times on 23.08.17.

We fully understand that many local people are very concerned about the flaring that occurred at the Mossmorran complex in June.  Our focus is on ensuring that we investigate fully what happened and that similar events do not reoccur.

For clarity, SEPA regulates the environmental aspects of the Mossmorran complex where both Shell and ExxonMobil hold permits. These include conditions relating to flaring and controls applied under the Pollution Prevention and Control (Scotland) Regulations.

A team of SEPA staff are currently carrying out a full investigation.

We gave a commitment at the Mossmorran Action Group meeting held in Lochgelly in July to provide updates on the progress of our investigation, and we would like to take this opportunity to reassure the public that this remains the case. 

Our investigation will look into what caused the flaring to occur and assess whether there have been any breaches of permit conditions by either company.

This investigatory work is part of an evidence gathering process which will inform any future enforcement actions, one of which could be the submission of a report to the Procurator Fiscal, and as such we are not in a position to release the details of the investigation at this time.

Our investigation is therefore ongoing and we’d like to reassure the public that we will continue to engage with community representatives and will share what information we can when we can.

Ian Buchanan
Head of Regulatory Services
Scottish Environment Protection Agency

ExxonMobil Chemical Limited - unplanned flaring 27 - 31 October 2017

 

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