NEWLY released reports from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have revealed safety concerns at the Fife Ethylene Plant at Mossmorran and its neighbouring Braefoot Bay terminal, say an MSP.

Local Green MSP, Mark Ruskell, has said this raises serious questions about how long the plant can continue to operate.

The documents, released under a Freedom of Information request made by Mr Ruskell, reveal ongoing concerns about the safety management system at the plant, and a series of incidents over the last three years including.

These include a gas leak from a compressor which was allowed to continue for several years. Damage to fire proof coatings which were deemed ‘not safety critical’ and not repaired.

Ongoing water leaks at Braefoot Bay which could be causing the pier to corrode; and failed seals on two gas tanks, with the operators deciding to run on back-up seals and push back repairs for another two years.

The reports also reveal that the plant often relies on manual intervention by staff to deal with a major hazard incident, rather than having automatic trips or shut downs in place, and that the Health and Safety Executive have major concerns about staffing levels, which have been reduced in recent years.

The Mossmorran complex and the neighbouring terminal, are jointly operated by Shell and Exxonmobil, and have been in operation since 1985.

An increase in flaring incidents in recent years has raised concerns in the local community that the ageing plant is not being maintained properly.

Mr Ruskell has closed followed the issue: "These reports reveal a corporate culture where health and safety compliance sits at a bare minimum and where actions demanded by the regulator are allowed to drift from year to year. It’s clear that the operators have, like the plant itself, failed to move with the times with an under-investment in corroding infrastructure, safety systems and specialist staff.

"Mossmorran and Braefoot are major employers in Fife, the operators have a responsibility to stop the corner cutting and get the plants operating at a higher standard.

"I expect the joint investigation launched by SEPA and HSE last month to thoroughly consider these ongoing concerns, alongside community issues like flaring.”

Exxon/Mobil have said before that they work closely with the authorities to ensure that safety issues are dealt with properly.

The company said in a statement: “Like all industrial sites, the Fife Ethylene Plant (FEP) is regulated closely by the HSE to ensure the safe working of the plant. The HSE also visits and completes regular inspections of FEP to assess all safety measures and identify any areas for improvement. As recently as February this year, the HSE confirmed that there are no serious deficiencies in the necessary preventative measures at FEP under the COMAH (Control of Major Accident Hazards) regulations, and there are currently no actions overdue.

“In order for a plant like FEP to work by the stringent COMAH precautionary standards, it is vital to assess where the highest potential hazards are on site in order to mitigate against major risks.

“The nature of the documents released under a Freedom of Information request relate to regular dialogue between the HSE and FEP as part of the ongoing inspection and review process. The depth and technical detail of the review process and dialogue between the HSE and FEP is recorded rigorously, and we welcome this.

“FEP is committed to the highest standards of health and safety and our operations include regular internal inspections to ensure we maintain our excellent record – this is reflected in the fact that in the past 22 years there have been no serious injuries at all on site.”