Cyber-attack & data theft: Our response & service status

Mossmorran and Barefoot Bay previous updates and information

Click here to return to the Mossmorran hub landing page.

2020

Unplanned flaring from Exxonmobil Chemical Limited - 2 February 2021

Chris Dailly, Head of Environmental Performance at SEPA, said:

“At around 15.40 today (2 February 2021) SEPA was notified by ExxonMobil Chemical Limited of unplanned, elevated flaring at the Mossmorran complex.

“Whilst flaring is an important safety mechanism for facilities like those at the Mossmorran complex, we are working with the site operator to understand the cause of the incident.

“Officers are in contact with the site and have been advised that Exxonmobil are actively working on the issue and we understand flaring has now been contained in the ground flares. The site will continue to provide updates.

“SEPA Officers have been deployed and will be in the area to assess impacts on local communities. SEPA’s air quality monitoring continues to be deployed.

“It is important that we understand community impacts. Updates will be available on social media and sepa.org.uk/mossmorran and we urge the public to report community impacts at sepa.org.uk/report”

SEPA response to ExxonMobil Chemical Limited announcement on ground flare timeline

Ian Buchanan, SEPA Chief Officer Compliance and Beyond, said:

“We have been clear that flaring, while an important safety feature of industrial facilities, will become the “exception rather than routine” and new infrastructure, including new totally enclosed ground flares, will address the issues that cause most disturbance to local people.

“In May 2020 we announced a package of measures that set out a pathway to compliance - which included a technical assessment of the timelines for new ground flare installation by utilising independent technical advisor(s) to verify the proposed programme. This was followed in July by the submission of a report to COPFS for consideration of prosecution in relation to flaring during April 2019.

“We welcome ExxonMobil Chemical Limited’s announcement yesterday (7 December) that timelines for the new totally enclosed ground flare unit - which will result in less noise, less light and less disturbance - to be safely operational can be brought forward. This is in line with the emerging findings of our technical review.

“We are working to clarify and understand the detail of yesterday’s announcement and will review that alongside the full independent technical assessment in due course.”

Unplanned flaring from ExxonMobil Chemical Limited Sunday 4 - Tuesday 6 October 2020

MOSSMORRAN UPDATE : 14:30 Tuesday 6 October 2020

Having received reports of elevated flaring at the ExxonMobil Chemical Fife Ethylene Plant shortly after 3:30am on Sunday, SEPA officers remained in contact with the site throughout the period. Specialist scientific and enforcement officers also continued to deploy to record community impacts and gather information, data and evidence.

SEPA’s four remote monitoring points around the site, at Lochgelly, Auchtertool, Donibristle and Little Raith continue to capture data. Monitors continue to demonstrate no breach of air quality standards.

As always SEPA has been in contact with partners in Fife Council and NHS Fife.

Chris Dailly, Head of Environmental Performance at SEPA, said:

“Whilst we are pleased that the site has now returned to normal operations and is no longer flaring, we remain frustrated by the frequency of flaring and the flow of information from the operator. We’ve also clearly heard the impact flaring continues to have on local communities through over 740 reports to us since Sunday.

“Whilst we await a full, detailed report from the operator on the cause of the latest flaring incident, the operator has indicated a compressor fault. The evidence we are gathering will enable us to determine whether there has been a breach of the site’s permit conditions and what our next steps should be in line with our published Enforcement Policy. 

“We are clear on our expectations of ExxonMobil Chemical Limited, including requiring the installation of noise reducing flare tips followed by the installation of ground flares. What we need now is for ExxonMobil to step up and recognise the depth of community anger and make real progress in making flaring the exception rather than the routine - and we will employ all available measures to ensure they do so.

“Updates will be available on social media and sepa.org.uk/mossmorran and we urge the public to report community impacts at SEPA.org.uk/report.”

MOSSMORRAN UPDATE : 20:00 MONDAY 05/10/20

Having received reports of elevated flaring at the ExxonMobil Chemical Fife Ethylene Plant shortly after 3:30am on Sunday, SEPA officers have remained in contact with the site over the period.

Whilst SEPA awaits a full, detailed report from the operator on the cause of the latest flaring incident, the operator has indicated a compressor fault.  The operator has advised that they are currently working to re-start equipment and that flaring is expected to continue overnight.  Fluctuations in the elevated flare may occur as the process restarts.

SEPA’s four remote monitoring points around the site, at Lochgelly, Auchtertool, Donibristle and Little Raith continue to capture data and specialist scientific and environment protection officers continue to deploy to record community impacts and gather information, data and evidence.

We continue to do so to determine whether there has been a breach of permit conditions and what our next steps should be in line with our published Enforcement Policy. Whilst monitors continue to demonstrate no breach of air quality standards, officers continue to note impacts on local communities.  

SEPA will continue to provide updates on social media and sepa.org.uk/mossmorran

We urge the public to report community impacts at SEPA.org.uk/report

Chris Dailly, Head of Environmental Performance at SEPA, said:

“Whilst its again important to stress that limited, controlled flaring is an authorised and important safety feature of industrial sites, we’ve heard clearly from over 380 reports to SEPA of the impact this further flaring event is having on local communities.

“Having submitted a report to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service for consideration of prosecution in relation to the flaring at the Mossmorran complex during April 2019, we remain frustrated by the frequency of flaring and the flow of information from the operator.

“We are investigating whether there has been a breach of permit conditions which would inform our next steps in line with our published Enforcement Policy.   

“We are clear on our expectations of the operator, including requiring the installation of noise reducing flare tips followed by the installation of ground flares.  Moreover, the operator must take steps to make flaring the exception rather than routine and if they will not, SEPA will consider further options to ensure they do so.

“Updates will be available on social media and sepa.org.uk/mossmorran and we urge the public to report community impacts at SEPA.org.uk/report

MOSSMORRAN UPDATE : 20:30 SUNDAY 04/10/20

Having received reports of elevated flaring at the ExxonMobil Chemical Fife Ethylene Plant shortly after 3:30am on Sunday, SEPA officers have remained in contact with the site across the day.

SEPA’s four remote monitoring points around the site, at Lochgelly, Auchtertool, Donibristle and Little Raith continue to capture data and  environment protection officers have deployed to record community impacts at five locations surrounding the site. 

Whilst monitors continue to demonstrate no breach of air quality standards, officers continue to note noise, light and vibration impacting local communities.  

With no firm indication as yet from ExxonMobil Chemical Limited of the cause of the flaring other than ‘a trip on one of our machines’, or further information on expected duration, specialist officers remain deployed this evening gathering information, data and evidence.

We do so to determine whether there has been a breach of permit conditions and what our next steps should be in line with our published Enforcement Policy.  We will provide updates as soon as further information becomes available.

Updates will be available on social media and sepa.org.uk/mossmorran

We urge the public to report community impacts at SEPA.org.uk/report

MOSSMORRAN UPDATE : 13:30 SUNDAY 04/10/20

At circa 3:30am on Sunday morning, SEPA received reports of elevated flaring at the ExxonMobil Chemical Fife Ethylene Plant.

Whilst limited, controlled flaring is an authorised and important safety feature of industrial sites, we understand the very real potential for community impacts and are assessing whether there has been a breach of permit conditions.

In addition to our four monitoring points around the site, SEPA officers have deployed to record community impacts at five locations surrounding the site. Officers have noted community noise and monitors continue to demonstrate no breach of air quality standards*.

Whilst there is no indication yet of the cause of the flaring or expected duration, officers will provide updates as soon as further information becomes available.

Chris Dailly, SEPA’s Head of Environmental Performance said:

 "Whilst limited, controlled flaring is an authorised and important safety feature of industrial sites, we know it has been happening too often at Mossmorran and the community impacts are often significant. That’s why we have submitted a report to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service for consideration of prosecution in relation to the flaring at the Mossmorran complex during April 2019, and why we have required the installation of noise reducing flare tips by 8 May 2021 followed by the installation of ground flares.

"Whilst we don’t know yet from the company the cause of the latest flaring or expected duration, we will provide further updates as soon as further information becomes available. 

"In addition to our fixed air quality and noise monitoring points across the area, officers are deployed to record community impacts at five locations surrounding the site.  Officers have noted community noise impacts and our monitors continue to demonstrate no breach of air quality standards*.  Our work now across the incident will determine whether there has been a breach of permit conditions and what our next steps will be in line with our published Enforcement Policy.

“Updates will be available on social media and sepa.org.uk/mossmorran and we urge the public to report community impacts at SEPA.org.uk/report

*sepa.org.uk/mossmorran

MOSSMORRAN UPDATE : 09:00 SUNDAY 04/10/20

SEPA is responding to unplanned flaring from ExxonMobil Chemical Limited at the Mossmorran complex in Fife, which started in the early hours of Sunday morning.

Whilst flaring is an important safety mechanism for facilities like those at the Mossmorran complex, we are working with the site operator to understand the cause of the incident.

The site operator has confirmed engineers are on site and they are working with the neighbouring site to increase use of the ground flare and minimise the impact on the community from the elevated flare.

SEPA Officers have been deployed and will be in the area to assess impacts on local communities. Fixed air quality and noise monitoring remains in place.

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

Exxonmobil has issued a community statement and is sharing updates from their twitter channel.

EMISSIONS FROM THE MOSSMORRAN COMPLEX IN 2019

The Scottish Pollutant Release Inventory (SPRI) 2019 data – this year experimental official statistics – that have been published by SEPA today [29 September 2020], detail the annual mass emissions from SEPA-regulated industrial sites.

The statistics show that Scotland’s carbon dioxide emissions have reduced significantly in the last 10 years. Emissions of the gas are down 57 per cent in the decade and 5 per cent annually to 11,293,145,941 kg since 2018. Methane emissions have also decreased significantly - by 44 percent - over the decade to 2019, and by 4 per cent between 2018 and 2019 to 26,777,357 kg.

More information is available in our full SPRI media release.

Mossmorran Complex emissions

While the overall trend in Scotland for carbon dioxide and methane are down, the emissions for individual sites are impacted by their activities. Due to the period that ExxonMobil’s Fife Ethylene Plant was offline, overall emissions have reduced – though emissions of some pollutants have increased at the Mossmorran Complex as a whole due to flaring. Despite the increases in emissions having no impact on local air quality, it clearly demonstrates the need for a move to flaring being the exception rather than routine.

SEPA has already announced a series of important steps and a pathway to compliance at Mossmorran, which we continue to drive forward. We’ve been clear with both operators on what we and the community expect and have outlined the steps they need to take to make this happen.

We’ll keep a firm focus on compliance, monitoring and the package of measures required over the period ahead and will keep local communities informed of our progress.

Local air quality

SEPA has conducted a wider range of air quality monitoring since January 2019, and regular air quality data reports continue to be published on our website at sepa.org.uk/Mossmorran.

Comparing results recorded when there was no significant flaring from the complex with the results during the period Exxon was offline shows no noteworthy increase in the measured ambient air concentrations of particulate matter, sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide or non-methane volatile organic compound (NMVOCs), despite increases in mass emissions of these pollutants.

SEPA’s monitoring results show no breaches of any of the air quality objectives during 2019 due to emissions from the Mossmorran Complex and all measurements were in the low band of Defra’s daily air quality index (DAQI) for all applicable pollutants.

Reported SPRI emissions

  • Carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxides emissions from ExxonMobil Chemical Limited decreased due to boilers and furnaces not being operational for part of the year, following the shutdown in August. This reduction offsets any increases due to flaring from the complex.
  • Carbon monoxide, particulate matter, methane and NMVOC emissions from ExxonMobil Chemical Limited increased due to increased flaring.
  • Carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and sulphur oxides from Shell U.K. Limited increased due to increased flaring during ExxonMobil Chemical Limited’s shutdown. Shell U.K Limited continued to operate, albeit at a lower rate than normal.
  • More detail on local air quality results is available in our report Emissions from the Mossmorran Complex in 2019 - report

Variation to extend deadline for ExxonMobil Chemical Limited to install noise-reducing flare tip

The short and medium-term investment we’re requiring the operators at the Mossmorran Complex to make, from noise-reducing flare tips to planning, designing then delivering new ground flare capacity, will make a real difference to local communities. We understand that the impact of restrictions put in place to tackle the spread of Covid-19 has had an impact on the original timelines for delivering some of this work.

In April 2020, when we set out our regulatory approach in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, we were clear that where businesses are unable to fully meet their permit conditions, they should contact us. In June ExxonMobil Chemical Limited applied for a variation to its permit as it would be unable to complete the flare-tip installation as planned. The date applied for was August 2021.

SEPA requested further information to enable us to determine whether this timescale was appropriate. It is better that the installation is done during the planned shutdown, to minimise the impact on the community by avoiding additional flaring. SEPA requested ExxonMobil Chemical Limited tell us the last date it will use the existing flare as part of this shutdown. 

ExxonMobil informed us this date is 7 May 2021 and we have issued a variation notice to vary the site’s permit to state that the existing elevated flare cannot be used after this date and the plant can only restart once the noise-reducing flare tip is in place. We welcome the realism of a practical date for installation of this important element.

 Notice of variation to Permit - ExxonMobil Chemical Limited

Planned maintenance activity at Shell Mossmorran Complex from Monday 21 September – Wednesday 30 September 2020

SEPA has been notified that Shell U.K. Limited will begin reintroducing gas to one of the modules at the Mossmorran Complex between Monday 21 September and Wednesday 30 September.

As a result, intermittent, short periods of low intensity flaring in the elevated stack are possible, although the site has advised it will prioritise the use of the ground flares to minimise the impact on the community

Members of the public who are concerned about a potential pollution issue are encouraged to contact us using our online reporting form. This is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Notification of planned flaring from Shell U.K Limited 18 – 22 August

SEPA has been notified of planned flaring from Shell U.K Limited at the Mossmorran Complex this week. This is due to one of the production units being shut down for scheduled maintenance.

The site has advised it will prioritise the use of the ground flares to minimise the impact on the community but occasional, short periods of low intensity flaring in the elevated stack are possible between Tuesday 18 and Saturday 22 August.

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

Unplanned flaring at Mossmorran Complex 12 - 14 August

Update on Mossmorran Complex - Friday 14 August 13.39

“Elevated flaring at the Mossmorran Complex has ceased and both ExxonMobil Chemical Limited and Shell U.K. Limited have confirmed they have returned to normal operations.

“SEPA staff attended the local area again yesterday afternoon and evening to assess impacts on local communities. Early results from our ongoing air quality monitoring suggests no breach of UK Air Quality Standards. Our fortnightly air quality summary reports continue to be uploaded to our Mossmorran Hub and the next one will be published as normal next week.

“The incident will be reviewed by specialist officers alongside the information we have received from members of the public who reported impacts and information from our staff on the ground.”

Update on Mossmorran flaring - Thursday 13 August 14.35

While flaring from ExxonMobil Chemical Limited is ongoing, both companies at the Mossmorran Complex have taken steps to reduce the rate - and use of available ground flare capacity is reducing the amount of gas going to the elevated flare.

SEPA staff were deployed across the evening and will continue to attend in surrounding communities to assess impacts. Noise and air quality monitoring remains in place.

Shell has advised it is now back to normal operations. ExxonMobil Chemical Limited has advised that there may be some fluctuations in flare size as work progresses. SEPA is clear on the need to minimise elevated flaring and our ongoing contact with both companies will continue until the full restoration of normal operations.

Unplanned flaring from Mossmorran Complex - Wednesday 12 August 17.56

"SEPA has had ongoing engagement with both ExxonMobil Chemical Limited and Shell U.K Limited at the Mossmorran Complex throughout the day. We have deployed staff in the area to assess community impact and monitoring of noise and air quality will continue.

"We understand that the flaring which began this morning was a result of disruption to power for both operators due to extreme weather conditions. Use of the ground flares to minimise elevated flaring was limited due to flooding on the site.

"We are continuing to speak directly with both companies regarding the restoration of normal operations.

"As always we have been in contact with our partners in Fife Council and NHS Fife over the course of the day and this will continue until normal operations are resumed."

Unplanned flaring from Mossmorran Complex -  Wednesday 12 August 11.52

SEPA is responding to elevated flaring at the Mossmorran complex, caused by a loss of power overnight due to the extreme weather conditions.

Officers are being deployed to the area to assess impacts on the community. SEPA’s air quality and noise monitoring remains in place.

We will provide updates as soon as we can using our online Hub at sepa.org.uk/mossmorran

Planned maintenance activity at Shell Fife NGL Plant from Tuesday 23 June – Thursday 25 June 2020

Please read the operator’s Community Notice for more information.

SEPA understands the maintenance work will mean ground flares at the Mossmorran complex will be temporarily unavailable but that the activity has been coordinated with neighbouring Fife Ethylene Plant and elevated flaring is not anticipated during the works period.

SEPA will be in close contact with Fife NGL and Fife Ethylene Plant, air quality and noise monitoring will continue around the complex and SEPA field staff will remain on standby throughout.

More information, including contact details for Shell Fife NGL, is provided in the Community Notice.

SEPA to submit a report to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service for consideration of prosecution over Mossmorran flaring

SEPA has announced its intention to submit a report to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service for consideration of prosecution in relation to the flaring the Mossmorran complex during April 2019. The report will be submitted shortly which follows unplanned flaring over a seven day period in April 2019 and an extensive regulatory investigation involving specialist regulatory, technical, scientific and enforcement teams from across the agency.

Over 900 complaints were received by our Pollution Hotline, the highest number the agency has received for any single environmental event. The move also follows a 2018 ‘Final Warning Letter’ issued to ExxonMobil Chemical Limited for a 2017 ‘preventable and unacceptable’ flaring incident.

Announcing a package of new measures, we’re confirmed a detailed technical assessment of the timelines for new ground flare installations by ExxonMobil Chemical Limited including utilising independent technical advisor(s) to verify the proposed programme.

The actions of ExxonMobil Chemical Limited continue to be under continual review during the current coronavirus pandemic with an intensified compliance programme to focus on the steps the company is taking to prevent and minimise flaring.

We are working closely with the Health and Safety Executive which has responsibility for site safety as part of the Competent Authority under the Control of Major Accident Hazards Regulations.Our focus remains on ensuring the company addresses the root causes of unacceptable flaring.

We have published 39 scientific monitoring reports online, with these continuing to be published on a fortnightly basis on our sepa.org.uk/mossmorran hub. Published data continues to demonstrate no breach of UK air quality standards.

We’re also announcing an external review by the Irish Environmental Protection Agency of regulation to share best practice and advise on further actions that may be taken to drive compliance. The review will report by October 2020.

Recognising the requirement to strengthen arrangements for community engagement, we are actively supporting Fife Council’s review of ​the Mossmorran and Braefoot Bay Community and Safety Committee aimed at refreshing community ​participation and engagement around the Mossmorran complex. We are also confirming that we are collaborating with Fife Council to review monitoring with input from local communities and other public partners as soon as is safely practical to do so.

Terry A’Hearn, Chief Executive of SEPA, said:

“Compliance with Scotland’s environmental laws is simply non-negotiable. Over a number of years, communities across Fife have repeatedly endured unplanned flaring. Whilst flaring is an important safety mechanism of such facilities, it must become the exception, rather than routine.

“People rightly expect that their lives won’t be impacted by nearby industrial processes and yet again, over an extended period during Easter 2019, communities were impacted by unacceptable and preventable flaring. The incident resulted in over 900 complaints to our Pollution Hotline, the highest number we’ve received for any single environmental event.

“Consequently, following an extensive investigation into the flaring at Mossmorran during April 2019, we intend to shortly submit a report to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service for consideration of prosecution.

“It’s right that we take enforcement action for the Easter 2019 flaring event.  What is just as important is that ExxonMobil Chemical Limited address the root-causes of ‘unacceptable flaring’. 

“Today we’ve announced a series of important steps and a pathway to compliance at Mossmorran. We’ve been clear with both operators on what we and the community expect and have outlined the steps they need to take to make this happen. Whilst flaring will continue to be required, this must become the exception rather than routine. We’ll keep a firm focus on compliance, monitoring and the package of measures required over the period ahead and we’ll keep local communities informed at sepa.org.uk/mossmorran”

REGULATION OF MOSSMORRAN DURING COVID-19:

We have published our SEPA COVID-19 Philosophy and overarching guidance on regulation during COVID-19

For Mossmorran we will:

  • Work closely with the HSE as the Competent Authority under the Control of Major Accident Hazards Regulations to continue to assure ourselves that ExxonMobil is taking appropriate steps to manage any risks that may arise from COVID-19.

  • Continue our robust regulation and assessment of the site.  Whilst SEPA’s Compliance Assessment Scheme (CAS) cannot practically be applied during the 2020 calendar year, this will not limit or inhibit our compliance work or have an impact on our ability to take action should non-compliance issues arise.

  • Focus our compliance work on those conditions where non-compliance may lead to a risk of impact on local communities and the environment, for example, the condition that requires that ExxonMobil must ensure that all appropriate preventative measures are taken against noise and vibration emissions through the application of BAT and ensure that no significant pollution is caused. 

  • Continue to monitor noise and air quality across local communities and we have upgraded our monitors so that we are able to download all data remotely.  Air quality monitoring results published fortnightly at sepa.org.uk/mossmorran.

  • Continue to focus on delivery of flaring improvements in the shortest possible timeframe.

  • Review and follow up on to complaints, but for the safety of our staff and others, we may not be able to visit or engage with members of the community in person.  As our staffing levels have been impacted we encourage people to use our web reporting tool.  In addition, we will be unable to provide a personal response, as we would normally have done when complainants request to speak directly to a SEPA officer.

  • Continue to respond to any significant elevated flaring by deploying staff on the ground whilst maintaining physical distancing. However, as all our staff are working from home our response may not be as rapid as it would be normally.

ExxonMobil Chemical Limited unplanned flaring update - Wednesday 4 March 2020

Chris Dailly, SEPA's Head of Environmental Performance, said:

“Having been in regular contact with ExxonMobil Chemical Limited over the last day, SEPA has been notified that normal operations have now resumed, and elevated flaring has ceased.

“Our officers have continued to deploy air and noise monitoring during this period of unplanned flaring, and initial data suggests no breach of UK Air Quality Standards.

“As we’ve stated, we’re disappointed that flaring occurred again so soon after the restart.

“Whilst recognising that flaring is an important safety mechanism, this is a further reminder of why the short and medium term steps being taken by SEPA to require the operator to mitigate flaring is so critical, including noise-reducing flare tips in 2020/21 and bringing forward plans for fully enclosed ground flares.

“We remain focused on the rapid conclusion of our current criminal investigation into unplanned flaring to an evidential standard.”

  • Mossmorran falls under the Control of Major Accident Hazards Regulations 2015, which are enforced by the Health and Safety Executive and SEPA.
  • Regulatory, noise and air monitoring continues across local communities.
  • 31 SEPA Air Quality Reports, including weekly reports, available at sepa.org.uk/mossmorran
  • SEPA focused on rapid conclusion of criminal investigation to an evidential standard.
  • A reminder of why short and medium term solutions are so critical.
  • Noise reducing flare tips to be introduced in 2020 and 2021 and planning, design then delivery of new ground flare capacity afterwards.
  • SEPA's approach will address the investment required to end ‘unacceptable flaring.’
  • Follow @ScottishEPA and @exxonmobil_fep for updates.
  • It’s important we understand community impacts. 
  • Please report pollution via our 24 Hour Pollution Hotline at www.sepa.org.uk/report

ExxonMobil Chemical Limited unplanned flaring - 17.30 Tuesday 3 March 2020

At circa 14:56 today (3 March 2020) SEPA was notified by ExxonMobil Chemical Limited of unplanned, elevated flaring at the Mossmorran complex. Officers have sought an immediate update from site and understand flaring is a result of a trip of one of the site’s major compressors. Initial reports suggest elevated flaring may continue overnight as the company works towards a safe re-start.

SEPA officers are responding and air and noise monitoring continues to be deployed.  

Chris Dailly, Head of Environmental Performance, said:

“Having been clear that flaring must become the exception rather than routine, we’re disappointed that flaring by ExxonMobil Chemical Limited has occurred again so soon after the restart. Officers made immediate contact with the company and we understand that the flaring relates to a trip of a major compressor. In understanding that flaring is likely to continue overnight as the site moves to a safe re-start, officers will continue to deploy and air and noise monitoring continues.

“SEPA is requiring a detailed briefing on the nature of the current incident and we expect the company to provide timely updates to the community. Whilst recognising that flaring is an important safety mechanism, this is a further reminder of why the short and medium term steps being taken by SEPA to mitigate flaring is so critical, including noise-reducing flare tips in 2020/21 and bringing forward plans for fully enclosed ground flares.”

  • Mossmorran falls under the Control of Major Accident Hazards Regulations 2015, which are enforced by the Health and Safety Executive and SEPA.
  • Regulatory, noise and air monitoring continues across local communities.
  • 31 SEPA Air Quality Reports, including weekly reports, available at sepa.org.uk/mossmorran
  • SEPA focused on rapid conclusion of criminal investigation to an evidential standard.
  • A reminder of why short and medium term solutions are so critical.
  • Noise reducing flare tips to be introduced in 2020 and 2021 and planning, design then delivery of new ground flare capacity afterwards.
  • SEPA's approach will address the investment required to end ‘unacceptable flaring.’
  • Follow @ScottishEPA and @exxonmobil_fep for updates.
  • Its important we understand community impacts. 
  • Please report pollution via our 24 Hour Pollution Hotline at www.sepa.org.uk/report

Planned flaring at Shell U.K. Limited - 3 March 2020

SEPA has been informed by Shell U.K. Limited that there will be a short period of low-level elevated flaring as part of equipment testing at the Mossmorran Complex on Tuesday 3 March.

The flaring, which is expected to last around 30 minutes, is an essential part of the ongoing investment to reduce the impacts of flaring on local communities when it is required. The equipment being tested was identified as a direct consequence of the 2018 requirement from SEPA that both companies conduct comprehensive technical assessments to ensure they were using ‘Best Available Techniques’. 

If successful this will enable Shell U.K. Limited to accurately monitor flare performance and steam control. 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

We expect Shell U.K Limited to keep the duration and rate of flaring as low as possible during this testing. Our air quality monitoring equipment continues to be deployed across local communities and we will keep publishing our weekly air quality monitoring reports at sepa.org.uk/mossmorran

Communities can continue to report any concerns via our 24 Hour Pollution Hotline at www.sepa.org.uk/report or on 0800 80 70 60.

Fri 14 Feb 2020 : ‘Unplanned flaring’ during Mossmorran restart a reminder of why short and medium term solution critical say's SEPA

  • While elevated flaring is a possibility during restart it was not expected last night.
  • Early indications that the near four hours of flaring was a result of a problem with one of the process units and reduced capacity of ground flares.
  • SEPA understands restart likely to continue into the weekend and we will continue daily regulatory updates.
  • SEPA hears clearly the level of community anxiety caused by Thursday night’s flaring event.
  • Regulatory, noise and air monitoring continues across local communities.
  • Initial data suggests no breach of UK Air Quality Standard.
  • 28 SEPA Air Quality Reports, including weekly reports, available at sepa.org.uk/mossmorran
  • SEPA focused on rapid conclusion of regulatory investigation to an evidential standard.
  • Thursday night flaring to be reviewed following outcome of current investigation.
  • A reminder of why short and medium term solutions are so critical.
  • Noise reducing flare tips to be introduced in 2020 and 2021 and planning, design then delivery of new ground flare capacity afterwards.
  • SEPA's approach will address the investment required to end ‘unacceptable flaring.’
  • Follow @ScottishEPA and @exxonmobil_fep for updates.
  • Its important we understand community impacts. 
  • Please report pollution via our 24 Hour Pollution Hotline at www.sepa.org.uk/report

‘Unplanned flaring’ during ExxonMobil Chemical Limited’s Mossmorran restart is a reminder of why short and medium term solution are critical to addressing ‘unacceptable flaring’ said the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) today (Friday 14th February 2020).

SEPA advised that early indications suggested that the near four hours of flaring was a result of a problem with one of the process units and reduced capacity of ground flares.  The agency understands the restart is likely to continue into the weekend and SEPA advised it will continue daily regulatory updates.

The agency, which had regulatory, noise and air monitoring capabilities deployed across the incident, said it heard clearly the level of community anxiety caused by Thursday night’s flaring event.

Initial data collected by the agency suggests no breach of UK Air Quality Standard.  28 SEPA Air Quality Reports, including weekly reports, available at sepa.org.uk/mossmorran

SEPA said it was focused on the rapid conclusion of its ongoing regulatory investigation to an evidential standard and that to avoid any delay, Thursday night’s flaring would be reviewed following outcome of current investigation.

The agency advised that the situation was a reminder of why short and medium term solutions are so critical.  The approach includes noise reducing flare tips being installed in 2020 and 2021 and planning, design then delivery of new ground flare capacity afterwards.

Chris Dailly, SEPA Senior Manager, Compliance & Beyond, said:

“Thursday’s unplanned flaring during ExxonMobil Chemical’s restart at Mossmorran is a real reminder of why short and medium term solutions are critical to addressing the root causes of unacceptable flaring.

“While elevated flaring is a possibility during restart it was not expected last night.  Once again we heard clearly and powerfully the very real concerns and frustrations of local communities.

“We think it’s important to be clear on the causes of the flaring in the final stage of this restart.  We know people also want information on our monitoring.  Since last year SEPA has had monitoring points around the site.  Initial data suggests that whilst clearly there was elevated flaring, there was no breach of UK Air Quality Standard.  We publish the data we collect on a weekly basis and now some 28 detailed reports are available.

“We accept that flaring is causing people worry, anxiety and stress.  That’s why our firm focus is on addressing the root-causes of ‘unacceptable flaring’ and making flaring an exception rather than routine, which is currently not the case. The short and medium-term investment we’re requiring the operators to make, from noise reducing flare tips in 2020 and 2021 and planning, designing then delivering new ground flare capacity will make a real difference to local communities.

“We appreciate communities want action, not words which is why we’re focused on rapid conclusion of regulatory investigation to an evidential standard and to the next steps in driving systemic change at Mossmorran.  We’ll provide more information as quickly as possible and would encourage anyone impacted to report any concerns at www.sepa.org.uk/report so these are formally reviewed and considered by specialist officers.“

00:00 Hrs - Fri 14 Feb 2020 Flaring Update

  • With no indication of enhanced elevated flaring during our daily regulatory update, officers have this evening sought to establish the situation with the operator.
  • SEPA understands from ExxonMobil Chemical Limited that following the planned restart, there was a requirement to utilise both the ground flares and enhanced elevated flaring. 
  • We have been advised this has now ceased and will receive a full update tomorrow morning as part of our daily regulatory brief.
  • We'll provide a further update as soon as possible.
  • Our regulatory, noise and air monitoring continues across local communities.
  • To date air quality has remained within UK Air Quality Standard.
  • 28 SEPA Air Quality Reports, including weekly reports, available at sepa.org.uk/mossmorran
  • SEPA's regulatory investigation is in final stages.
  • SEPA's approach is also addressing the investment required to end ‘unacceptable flaring.’
  • Follow @ScottishEPA and @exxonmobil_fep for updates.
  • Its important we understand community impacts. 
  • Please report pollution via our 24 Hour Pollution Hotline at www.sepa.org.uk/report

23:00 Hrs - Thu 13 Feb 2020 Flaring Update

  • We're aware of fluctuations in the elevated flare at Mossmorran.
  • Officers are in contact with the site to understand the current position and will provide an update as quickly as possible.
  • ExxonMobil Chemical Limited had confirmed that the restart in ‘final stage' and to expect fluctuations as part of the restart.
  • SEPA regulatory, noise and air monitoring continues across local communities.
  • To date air quality has remained within UK Air Quality Standard.
  • 28 SEPA Air Quality Reports, including weekly reports, available at sepa.org.uk/mossmorran
  • SEPA regulatory investigation in final stages.
  • SEPA approach also addressing the investment required to end ‘unacceptable flaring’.
  • The short and medium-term investment we’re requiring the operators to make, from noise reducing flare tips in 2020 and 2021 and planning, designing then delivering new ground flare capacity will make a real difference to local communities.
  • It's important we understand local impacts. Please continue to report pollution via our 24 Hour Pollution Hotline at www.sepa.org.uk/report
  • Follow @ScottishEPA and @exxonmobil_fep for updates.

Mossmorran restart in 'final stage' as SEPA's twin-track approach addresses the investment required to end 'unacceptable flaring'

  • ExxonMobil Chemical Limited confirms Mossmorran restart in ‘final stage.’
  • Elevated flaring ‘may fluctuate in size.’
  • SEPA regulatory, noise and air monitoring continues across local communities.
  • Air quality remains within UK Air Quality Standard.
  • 28 SEPA Air Quality Reports, including weekly reports, available at sepa.org.uk/mossmorran
  • SEPA is clear that all steps must be taken to minimise impacts on communities.
  • SEPA approach also addressing the investment required to end ‘unacceptable flaring.’
  • Follow @ScottishEPA and @exxonmobil_fep for updates.

The Mossmorran restart has now entered its ‘next and final stage’ SEPA was advised yesterday evening (Monday 10 February 2020) by ExxonMobil Chemical Ltd.

In an update issued by the company, the business stated that work had begun to re-start distillation towers, a ‘final stage’ of the process. The company advised that the elevated flare would fluctuate in size as each tower comes online and starts processing gas.

Specialist officers from the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) are continuing daily regulatory updates with the operator and are clear that all steps must continue to be taken to minimise impacts on communities.

SEPA regulatory, noise and air monitoring continues across local communities and SEPA’s published air quality reports have confirmed that air quality remains within UK Air Quality Standards. The agency has published 28 SEPA Air Quality Reports, including weekly reports, available at sepa.org.uk/mossmorran

SEPA’s approach is also addressing the investment required to end ‘unacceptable flaring.’ 

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 as part of a £140 million investment. Shell U.K. Limited has recently submitted a project for their future use of ground flares.

Wendy Thornton, SEPA Senior Manager, Compliance & Beyond, said:

“We’ve said clearly that compliance with Scotland’s environmental rules is simply non-negotiable. Specialist teams have been working round-the-clock to monitor the restart and ensure the company is taking all steps to minimise impacts on communities.

“Our published monitoring has confirmed that air quality remains within UK Air Quality Standard and we’ve now published 28 SEPA Air Quality Reports, including weekly reports, at sepa.org.uk/mossmorran

“People will rightly welcome an end being in sight for the restart. That said, we hear clearly calls for an end to the ongoing disturbance this industrial facility is causing.  That’s why we’re working to address the root-causes of ‘unacceptable flaring’ and making flaring an exception rather than routine. The short and medium-term investment we’re requiring the operators to make, from noise reducing flare tips in 2020 and 2021 and planning, designing then delivering new ground flare capacity will make a real difference to local communities.

“We’ll ensure local people have the latest information, via SEPA’s social media channels, local media and our next community newsletter.

“Communities can continue to report any concerns via our 24 Hour Pollution Hotline at www.sepa.org.uk/report or on 0800 80 70 60.”

SEPA continues its twin-track approach to ExxonMobil – ongoing monitoring whilst working to address root causes of ‘unacceptable’ flaring - 24 January 2020

SEPA continues its twin-track approach to ExxonMobil – ongoing monitoring whilst working to address root causes of ‘unacceptable’ flaring - 24 January 2020

  • SEPA confirms the continuation of its twin-track approach to ExxonMobil Chemical Ltd –ongoing monitoring whilst driving change to address the root causes of ‘unacceptable’ flaring.
  • Public partners have been working closely together on the restart.
  • SEPA will monitor the planned restart of ExxonMobil’s Mossmorran facility – with a deployment of air quality, noise and regulatory monitoring.
  • SEPA is clear that all steps must be taken to minimise impacts on communities.
  • Follow @ScottishEPA and @exxonmobil_fep for updates.
  • SEPA will continue to publish monitoring information as quickly as possible on social media and sepa.org.uk/mossmorran.

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) today (Friday 24 January 2020), confirmed the continuation of its ‘twin-track’ approach to the responsible restart of ExxonMobil Chemical Ltd’s Mossmorran facility in Fife.

With the agency having regular contact with the operator regarding its planned restart, SEPA confirmed it stands ready with a deployment of air quality, noise and regulatory monitoring.  

Whilst more than twenty reports from the agency continue to confirm no breaches of air quality standards due to flaring at Mossmorran, SEPA is continuing its deployment of air quality monitoring in multiple locations surrounding the site.  Locations in Lochgelly, Auchtertool and Donibristle, upwind and downwind of the complex, ensure that SEPA can monitor in local communities and take account of changes in wind direction. Full air quality reports are published at sepa.org.uk/mossmorran.

The agency has also deployed noise monitoring in Lochgelly and a residential location to the South East of the site, with additional responsive mobile monitoring to be deployed if required.  Noise monitoring data associated with our regulatory investigation cannot be published at this time.

SEPA has previously confirmed air quality monitoring will stay in place whilst the recently announced investments are made at Mossmorran. SEPA is also working alongside partner agencies with air quality responsibilities to assess future requirements.

The agency also confirmed progress in driving change to address the root causes of ‘unacceptable’ flaring including requiring noise-reducing flare tips and fully enclosed ground flare technologies to be installed that will significantly reduce the impact on the rare future occasions when flaring is necessary.

Rob Morris, SEPA Senior Manager, Compliance & Beyond, said:

“We’re clear that compliance with Scotland’s environmental rules is simply non-negotiable.  That’s why we’re continuing our twin-track approach to ExxonMobil.  In addition to continuing our monitoring across the responsible restart of the facility, we’re firmly focused on addressing the root causes of ‘unacceptable’ flaring.

“People rightly expect that their lives won’t be impacted by nearby industrial processes. In addition to requiring ExxonMobil Chemicals Limited and Shell U.K. Limited to install noise reducing flare tips, we’re finalising proposals requiring new ground flare capacity that will be planned, designed, built and safely integrated in the shortest period possible.

“Public partners have been working closely together regarding the restart. With regulatory, air quality and noise monitoring officers working to ensure a responsible and reliable restart, we’ll provide regular updates and publish monitoring information as quickly as possible on social media and sepa.org.uk/mossmorran. Useful information is also available via ExxonMobil Chemical Limited’s Mossmorran’s social media. Anyone who is concerned about pollution can use SEPA’s online reporting tool at sepa.org.uk/report, available around the clock.”

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.

The investigation is now in the final stages. A small number of interviews remain to be conducted and a further update will be provided when complete.

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.

Re-start updates

Restart update: Friday 6 February 2020

We’re continuing our twin-track approach of monitoring the responsible restart of the ExxonMobil Chemical Ltd facility whilst addressing the root causes of ‘unacceptable flaring’.

Specialist officers will continue to be deployed in local communities across the weekend.

We continue to review the restart on a daily basis with the business.

Check @exxonmobil_fep for operational updates.

Restart update: Thursday 5 February 2020

As ExxonMobil Chemical Limited continues to progress the responsible restart of its Mossmorran plant, our specialist staff will again be in local communities today to monitor any impacts on local residents.

SEPA’s daily regulatory brief with the operator will remain in place this week as part of our twin-track approach - as we continue to drive change to address the root causes of ‘unacceptable’ flaring.

Some elevated flaring has been experienced, as advised by the operator on social media. Follow @exxonmobil_fep for operational updates.

Restart update: Monday 3 February 2020

SEPA’s daily regulatory brief with the ExxonMobil Chemical Limited continued over the weekend, and will remain in place this week as part of our monitoring of the site’s restart,

Our specialist staff will be in local communities throughout the week as part of our twin-track approach - as we also drive change to address the root causes of ‘unacceptable’ flaring.

Some elevated flaring was experienced over the weekend, as advised by the operator on social media. Follow  @exxonmobil_fep for operational updates.

Restart update: Thursday 30 January 2020

SEPA is continuing to monitor the restart of ExxonMobil Chemical Limited’s plant. This is part of our twin-track approach as we also drive change to address the root causes of ‘unacceptable’ flaring.

Our daily regulatory brief with ExxonMobil Chemical Limited confirms the restart is going as planned, with elevated flaring being minimised as much as possible.

Check @exxonmobil_fep for operational updates.

Restart update: Tuesday 28 January 2020

Specialist officers continue to monitor the restart as part of our twin-track approach including driving change to address the root causes of ‘unacceptable’ flaring.

Our daily regulatory brief with ExxonMobil Chemical Limited confirms the restart is going as planned, with elevated flaring being minimised as much as possible.

Restart update: Monday 27 January 2020

We’re continuing to closely monitor the responsible re-start of ExxonMobil Chemical Limited’s facility on a daily basis. To date the restart is going as planned, with elevated flaring being minimised as much as possible.

SEPA will continue its twin-track approach of monitoring the restart whilst addressing the root causes of ‘unacceptable flaring’. Specialist officers will continue to be deployed across the week.

Restart update: Sunday 26 January 2020

With ExxonMobil Chemical Limited having begun the use of the elevated flare as part of the re-start, SEPA is continuing its twin-track approach of monitoring the responsible restart whilst addressing the root causes of 'unacceptable flaring'.

Specialist officers continue to be deployed across the restart.

Restart update: Saturday 25 January 2020

We're continuing our twin-track approach of monitoring the responsible restart of the ExxonMobil Chemical Limited facility whilst addressing the root causes of 'unacceptable flaring'.

Specialist officers were deployed overnight and will work across the restart. We are reviewing the restart on a daily basis with the business.

Check @exxonmobil_fep for operational updates.

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

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

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. 

Back to Mossmorran Hub

Frequently asked questions 

How is SEPA regulating Mossmorran during the cyberattack?

For Mossmorran we will we continue to regulate robustly and this includes:

  • Work closely with the HSE as the Competent Authority under the Control of Major Accident Hazards Regulations to continue to assure ourselves that both operators are taking appropriate steps to manage any risks that may arise from COVID-19 and EU Exit.
  • Continue to monitor noise and air quality across local communities.
  • Continue to work with the companies to deliver flaring improvements in the shortest possible timeframe. We continue to be in regular contact with both companies to monitor progress.
  • Review and follow up on complaints, but for the safety of our staff and others, we may not be able to visit or engage with members of the community in person. As our communications have been impacted we encourage people to use our web reporting tool. In addition, we will be unable to provide a personal response, as we would normally have done when complainants request to speak directly to a SEPA officer.
  • Continue to respond to any significant elevated flaring by deploying staff on the ground whilst maintaining physical distancing. However, as all our staff are working from home our response may not be as rapid as it would be normally.

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.