Scottish Labour Deputy Leader Alex Rowley Calls for Independent Review of Fife Ethylene Plant at Mossmorran
Following a weekend of intensified flaring, and an outpouring of thick black smoke, Scottish Labour Deputy Leader Alex Rowley has made calls for an independent review into the workings, processes and current condition of Fife Ethylene Plant at Mossmorran.
The plant, which is owned by ExxonMobil Chemical Limited, has been in operation since 1985, and those that live in the vicinity have become accustomed to a degree of flaring over the years.
The owners have explained that the flaring is a necessary part of the plant’s safety system, which is used either when maintenance is required on site, or where there is an issue and the product coming down the pipe has to be burned off for safety reasons.
However, there have been increased concerns as to the number of flarings taking place, and on Sunday the unexpected huge plume of thick black smoke gave many residents in the nearby area worries.
Mr Rowley, an MSP for Mid Scotland & Fife, has written to the Scottish Government raising the concerns of local people, and also asking for an independent review to take place at the site.
“We have seen the number of flaring incidents increase over the years, however, I have never seen the likes of the incident we saw on Sunday, where accompanying the aggressive flame from the top of the plant we saw a thick acrid cloud of black smoke.
“People are understandably concerned by these incidents, and do not particularly feel reassured in the safety of the plant.
“Given that these incidents have increased in recent years, and the fact that they are accompanied by an incredibly loud noise which can be heard for miles, and now alongside this outpouring of thick black smoke across Fife; I am asking the Government Minister to deliver an independent review into the site.
“There is increasing concern and worry in the communities surrounding this plant at the seeming increases in the need for flaring, in noise levels from the site and in what is being released into the air that we breathe.”
See the letter from Mr Rowley to the Scottish Government below:
Ore Valley Business Centre
93 Main Street
Lochgelly KY5 9AF
T: 01592 786725
Alex Rowley MSP
Member for Mid Scotland and Fife
Cabinet Secretary for the Environment,
Climate Change and Land Reform
The Scottish Government
St. Andrew’s House
20th June 2017
Dear Cabinet Secretary,
I am writing to ask you to consider my request that the Scottish Government initiates an independent review of the operations of the Fife Ethylene Plant at Mossmoran near Cowdenbeath in Fife.
The plant has been operational since 1985 and we who live in the area have become used to having a degree of flaring take place either planned, where there is maintenance required on site, or unplanned, where there is an issue and the product coming down the pipe has to be burnt off for safety reasons.
The level of flaring from the site would seem to have increased over the years as the plant ages and although we are told this is for safety reasons I have to say the more the plant flares the less safe people are feeling.
There are also many occasions where the flaring is accompanied by a really loud noise and again we are told this is for safety reasons and the noise is a result of steam being fed into the flare. The more this happens the less safe we feel.
Over the last week up until this morning we have had flaring taking place with the large flame lighting up the sky around the central belt of Fife and the noise has been very loud which as I am sure you can imagine causes concern.
On Sunday evening people were very shocked by the sight of thick black smoke pouring out the top of the flame and lingering over the surrounding communities. I have to say from my home in Kelty I was taken aback and worried about what I was witnessing so I understand the fear and concern from those closer to the site who were very worried, and who phoned me. The thick black smoke poured out across Lochgelly and Benarty.
Now ExxonMobil Chemical Limited have issued a statement making their usual point that “the flare is an essential part of the plant’s safety systems and there is no danger to local communities or employees”, however I believe the surrounding communities need further information.
First what was the cause of the unacceptable outpouring of thick black smoke on Sunday and the levels of noise that were for many frightening?
ExxonMobile Chemical Limited are saying that there were two separate problems over the last week that resulted in the initial flaring up to the Saturday and then again an incident on the Sunday required the plant to flare again.
I did contact SEPA on the Sunday evening and I know from contact with them again on the Monday that they are investigating these issues.
But I have to say to you that there is increasing concern and worry in the communities surrounding this plant at the seeming increases in the need for flaring, in noise levels from the site and in what is being released into the air that we breathe.
I have had previous contact with NHS Fife and I am aware they did a report on health impacts in the surrounding area and gave assurances to the Fife Council’s Cowdenbeath Area Committee. However, when you see what is coming out into the atmosphere from this plant then you will understand the ongoing worry.
The plant is very old and although there have been refurbishments of the site, the fact that incidents like that of the last week seem to be becoming more frequent also lead to concerns about the general safety of the site.
For all these reasons I think it is not unreasonable to ask the Scottish Government to order an independent review of the workings, processes and current condition of the Fife Ethylene Plant.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Alex Rowley MSP
Mid Scotland and Fife