19 April 2018
Final warnings to Exxonmobil Chemical and Shell for environmental non-compliance
I write to you in your capacity as Chair of Auchtertool Community Council to inform you that this week the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) served petrochemical companies ExxonMobil Chemical Ltd and Shell UK Limited with Final Warning letters following an enhanced unplanned flaring event at the Mossmorran complex in Fife, during June 2017.
In addition to Final Warning letters, SEPA commissioned a full review of the environmental permits to operate both sites, with a view to strengthening environmental compliance and reducing the impact of flaring on local communities. An enhanced programme of air quality monitoring will inform relevant public agencies.
Following an intensive SEPA investigation, which included formal statements from local residents, we found that whilst flaring is an important safety feature in the event of a process fault, a series of maintenance failures had led to elevated levels of unplanned flaring in breach of environmental controls between 12 and 18 June, following the breakdown of a condensate pump.
We found that 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 we received 74 complaints in total.
Every day, SEPA works to protect and enhance Scotland’s environment and compliance with Scotland’s environmental rules is simply non-negotiable and I have personally met senior ExxonMobil Chemical Ltd and Shell UK Limited executives directly on site to make it clear to them that environmental compliance is 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 and have announced a full review of environmental permits 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 I’m encouraged by how both companies have responded, committing to respond positively to a strengthening of environmental controls. We’ll be working together with the Health and Safety Executive, public health partners and communities to strengthen environmental controls and deliver powerful transparency over site operations.
While the Final Warning letters brings to a close SEPA’s regulatory investigation for June 2017, the unplanned flaring events which took place in October 2017 and March 2018 are still under investigation.
The latest SEPA Mossmorran newsletter has just been published and is available on SEPA’s dedicated Mossmorran Hub at www.sepa.org.uk/mossmorran where we also publish regular updates.
Chief Executive Officer
Scottish Environment Protection Agency
Castle Business Park