Lesley Laird MP is demanding answers following "extremely concerning" news that the Fife Ethylene Plant could be closed until the end of the year.

ExxonMobil released a statement on Monday that said their Mossmorran site would re-open in the fourth quarter of the year, the Times understands it'll be November at the earliest.

It said they needed to “thoroughly understand” what led to the failure of two boilers at the plant and undertake a “programme of wider preventative work that will further improve reliability.”

The MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath is expected to be in talks with the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) and plant manager Jacob McAlister this week.

Ms Laird said: “It’s an unprecedented move for ExxonMobil to leave a window of up to four months to fix issues at Mossmorran.

“Given they anticipated repairs would be completed in one month this development is extremely concerning, suggesting as it does that problems are more complex than originally thought.

“I’m concerned, as are local communities, and it’s vitally important we understand what led to this decision.

“ExxonMobil wouldn’t shut down Mossmorran – and lose vast amounts of money over the course of weeks and months – unless it was absolutely forced to.”

The company shut down the plant in mid-August after two out of three boilers failed, leading to more unplanned flaring.

ExxonMobil, and neighbours Shell UK who run the Fife NGL plant at Mossmorran, have both been heavily criticised for flaring incidents and the impact they have on local communities.

That led the MP to call on the Scottish Government to launch an independent investigation.

Ms Laird added: “Under these new circumstances, I call once again on Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham to intervene and find out what is really going on here.

“Members of the public are mystified why the Scottish Government won’t investigate.

“Environmental concerns are at the heart of community concerns, and they want their government to take those concerns seriously and act.

“These plants are operated by multinational companies but that should not mean a hands off approach from the minister.”

Stuart Neill, external affairs manager for ExxonMobil, said: “We note the comments made by Ms. Laird and want to provide important factual clarification.

“We took the decision to temporarily shut down our plant to give us the time and opportunity to fully assess the root cause of our boiler issues and develop a plan of work.

“We have now done this and have subsequently indicated a timeframe within which we will execute that work. We are also using this opportunity to undertake additional maintenance that can help improve operational reliability upon re-start.”

The statement from Mr McAlister said: "Our operations remain temporarily shut down.

"We are still finalising timescales, but we estimate returning to operations at some point during the fourth quarter of this year.

"This move gives us the extra time to thoroughly understand and address the mechanical issues with our boilers, while also undertaking a programme of wider preventative work that will further improve reliability when we re-start the plant.

"This temporary shut-down has a significant commercial and operational impact for our company, but it underlines our commitment to ensuring safe and reliable operations."

Last week ExxonMobil and Shell UK were ordered to “move faster” to deal with the impacts of flaring at the chemical plants.

SEPA served permit variations on both ExxonMobil and Shell UK to lock in compliance at their sites.

The environment agency were unimpressed by current plans to upgrade the plant and demanded a reduction in the impacts of flaring on local communities.

SEPA said that flaring, an important safety feature of industrial facilities, must become the “exception rather than routine”.

ExxonMobil has two months to come up with a plan for new ground flare technology, while Shell has until the end of January for a plan for a totally enclosed ground flare system.