A MAJOR mechanical breakdown at the Fife Ethylene Plant late on Monday led to the night sky being lit-up as a period of intense flaring began at the Mossmorran site.

The incident brought a sharp reaction from James Glen, of the Mossmorran Action Group who talked about residents of the Cowdenbeath-Lochgelly area having to put up with a huge flame and smoke pouring from the plant.

The incident occurred late on Monday night following the loss of steam generation across two of the three boilers at the FEP.

Plant manager Jacob McAlister said late on Monday night: "We are currently experiencing a significant process outage, resulting in high volume flaring. Our first priority remains the safety of our people and our surrounding communities, followed closely by minimising the community impact of flaring.

"We are now developing plans to safely shut down plant operations to allow us to execute the necessary maintenance and eliminate flaring.

"We apologise unreservedly for any concern that this event may currently be causing and will update further as timelines become clearer".

Stuart Neill, external affairs manager for ExxonMobil said yesterday (Tuesday): “We can confirm that we have experienced mechanical failure across two of our three boilers.

“With the loss of this steam generation, we cannot continue to operate our normal processes.

“As such, we are progressing with the unit shut down to allow us to evaluate the root cause and execute necessary repairs".

He added: “Flaring will be required while our team take the steps required to safely shut down operations.

“We will always work to minimise the timelines, and will update you as these are confirmed.

“We, again, apologise if flaring is causing any concern but reiterate that the process is safe and poses no risk to communities.”

But Mr Glen was very unhappy: "Once again the night sky in Central Fife has been lit up with apocalyptic flaring as ExxonMobil experiences yet another unplanned emergency.

"A massive plume of black smoke testified to the release of a large quantity of unburned hydrocarbons and other toxic pollutants.

"Families in neighbouring communities were again forced to suffer extensive noise intrusion, light pollution that turned night into day and consequent sleeplessness and anxiety.

"Residents were left frustrated when they couldn't report the unplanned emergency to SEPA as their pollution helpline proved unable to cope with the volume of calls.

"Individuals have submitted reports to our group of disturbed sleep, nausea, stress, anxiety, headaches, sore throats and burning eyes during this extreme flaring event (https://mossmorran.org.uk/social-impacts/). Unfortunately NHS Fife isn't equipped to capture this data and the symptoms felt by residents will be arrogantly dismissed by ExxonMobil and some politicians".

He concluded "In 2001 the then Shadow Health Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, promised residents a public probe into Mossmorran, 18 years later residents are still waiting. Public calls for an independent social impact study has fallen on deaf ears, as the First Minister, and Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham ignore the plight of residents.

"What will it take for residents to get justice? Another Buncefield disaster? Haven't the authorities learned any lessons from Grenfell?"

Meanwhile Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath MP, Lesley Laird, on Monday, before the flaring took place, wrote to, Roseanna Cunningham, asking that she revisit her decision not to hold an independent inquiry into the operations of the ExxonMobil and Fife Ethylene and Shell NGL plants.

Her letter was co-signed by MSPs and councillors along with the Mossmorran Action Group.