THE Scottish Environment Protection Agency has served final warning letters on petrochemical companies ExxonMobil Chemical Ltd and Shell UK Limited.
They were issued with Final Warning Letters following “an enhanced unplanned flaring event” at the Mossmorran complex in Fife during June 2017.
However it is still investigating two further potential breaches – in October 2017 and again March last month.
Locals have raised concerns about the activity which sent flames high into the air that could be seen for miles around.
More than 70 complaints were lodged.
In addition to Final Warning Letters, the environmental watchdog has commissioned a full review of the environmental permits to operate both sites.
They say this comes with a view to strengthening environmental compliance and reducing the impact of flaring on local communities.
An enhanced programme of air quality monitoring has also been announced by the regulator, to inform relevant public agencies.
SEPA said it launched an “intensive” investigation which included formal statements from local residents.
The accepted flaring is an important safety feature in the event of a process fault.
But it discovered a series of maintenance failures had led to elevated levels of unplanned flaring, following the breakdown of a condensate pump.
They say this was in breach of environmental controls between 12 and 18 June.
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.
SEPA’s Chief Executive, Terry A’Hearn met senior ExxonMobil Chemical Ltd and Shell UK Limited executives directly on site and was clear that “environmental compliance is non-negotiable.”
Terry A’Hearn, SEPA’s Chief Executive Officer, said: “Every day, SEPA works to protect and enhance Scotland’s environment and compliance with Scotland’s environmental rules is simply non-negotiable.
“The impact of unplanned flaring from Mossmorran last year was both preventable and unacceptable.
“We’re disappointed that both ExxonMobil Chemical and Shell UK caused an environmental impact on local communities which is why we’ve issued formal Final Warning Letters, have commissioned a full review of environmental permits to operate and an enhanced programme of air quality monitoring.”
“It’s clear that further actions are required by ExxonMobil Chemical and Shell UK to ensure the frequency and impact of flaring is reduced, but we’re encouraged by how both companies have responded, committing to respond positively to a strengthening of environmental controls.
“We’ll be working with the Health and Safety Executive, public health partners and communities to together both strengthen environmental controls and deliver powerful transparency over site operations.”
Further unplanned flaring events which took place in October 2017 and March 2018 are still under investigation.
WANT TO LEARN MORE? Read: SEPA Mossmorran and Braefoot Bay complexes
IMAGE CREDIT: SEPA