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Environmental agency to seek prosecution over Mossmorran plant flaring

May 14, 2020
Chemical Value Chain

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA; Sterling, UK) on Wednesday announced its intention to submit a report to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service for consideration of prosecution in relation to the flaring at the ExxonMobil Chemical’s Mossmorran steam cracker complex during April 2019.

The report, to be submitted shortly, 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.

SEPA says that over 900 complaints were received by the agency’s 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 for a 2017 ‘preventable and unacceptable’ flaring incident. SEPA’s focus remains on ensuring ExxonMobil addresses the root causes of unacceptable flaring.

Announcing a package of new measures, SEPA confirmed a detailed technical assessment of the timelines for new ground flare installations by ExxonMobil Chemical including using independent technical advisors to verify the proposed program. The agency has confirmed that the actions of ExxonMobil Chemical continue to be under continual review during the current coronavirus pandemic with an intensified compliance program to focus on the steps the company is taking to prevent and minimize flaring.

Recognising the requirement to strengthen arrangements for community engagement, the agency confirmed it was 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.  The agency confirmed it is 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, CEO 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. It’s right that we take enforcement action for the Easter 2019 flaring event.  What is just as important is that ExxonMobil Chemical addresses the root-causes of ‘unacceptable flaring’.

The ethane cracker, commissioned in 1986, is designed to produce 830,000 metric tons/year of ethylene. Around 50% of the ethylene produced is distributed via the UK ethylene pipeline network. The balance is pumped to Braefoot Bay Marine Terminal on the Firth of Forth where it is stored as a liquid and shipped to Antwerp. ExxonMobil owns the plant jointly with Shell.

By: Natasha Alperowicz

Source: Chemical Week

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