EXXON/MOBIL has this morning announced plans to launch a £140 million additional investment programme over the next two years at its Fife Ethylene Plant to upgrade key infrastructure and introduce new technologies that will significantly improve operational reliability and performance.

The investment will benefit suppliers and support local construction companies, but local politicians, while welcoming the news, have aired more concerns.

“These planned investments demonstrate our commitment to long-term reliable operations at the site,” said Jacob McAlister, plant manager at the Mossmorran Fife Ethylene Plant.

“While already one of the most modern plants of its kind in Europe, we are always looking for ways to improve reliability and efficiency through continued maintenance and investment in new technologies. Fife has a long-term future as a competitive asset, contributing to both the local and national economies.”

A portion of the £140 million investment will go toward technologies that reduce the impact of flaring, including a state-of-the-art flare tip, which will reduce noise and vibration.

The project will support approximately 850 local construction jobs and benefit 40 local suppliers.

“We are committed to the highest operational and regulatory standards,” said Mr McAlister.

“This investment further contributes to the local economy and across Scotland through job creation and procurement contracts.”

Mid Scotland Fife MSP Alex Rowley said today: “The announcement of this investment, while welcome, does nothing to reassure people that the plant won’t keep breaking down, indeed the main focus seems to be investment to help dampen down the impact of flaring which happens when something goes wrong in the plant. We need to know what the overall condition of the plant is and why it keeps breaking down causing worry, stress and additional pollution.

“There is also a failure to recognise the impact on people in these last few years, on their health and wellbeing. The refusal of the Scottish Government to order an independent inquiry as called for by Fife Council is disappointing. The council have said that compensation should be made available to all who have suffered and the local communities and that will come to a lot more than the small investment being announced today”.

Cowdenbeath councillor Darren Watt commented: "I very much welcome this substantial investment to improve the failing plant and it's operations. This is exactly what many local residents and I have been fighting for since the initial unplanned flaring back in June 2017.

"I of course also welcome the massive boost to the local economy and jobs market.

"However, once again this poses more questions than answers. For the last two years, we have been consistently told by the plant operators that it was a relatively modern plant and it is safe, reliable and fit for purpose yet we've seen breakdown after breakdown and had to endure the impacts of flaring.

"This announcement reaffirms that our suspicions and concerns have been correct all along but hopefully ExxonMobil's actions will speak much louder than their previous meaningless words. They will still have a long way to go in rebuilding relations with effected residents and questions will still remain about the plant's overall environmental and social impacts but for now I will welcome the news and watch with interest over the coming months."

Responding to the announcement that ExxonMobil is investing £140m into the Mossmorran chemical plant, Scottish Green MSP Mark Ruskell said:  “It is good to see the operator finally take steps to reduce flaring at this plant, and I know the many residents who have had to suffer light, noise and air pollution will be impatient for a better quality of life.
“However, many of my concerns remain. I can see nothing in these plans about investment into carbon capture and storage to ensure the plant meets the 2045 carbon neutral target, a technology seen as the solution by the First Minister.
“The 850 jobs being promised are temporary ones, which is no way to secure the future of a community. For the sake of them and Scotland’s attempts to tackle the climate emergency, we need to be investing in a sustainable future now by creating new alternative jobs as part of a Scottish Green New Deal.
"Meanwhile, the BBC is reporting that the plant has been issued with an improvement notice over the risk of an explosion. To truly reassure the community that they are taking this seriously, ExxonMobil must outline in detail how they are making the site safe.”

Cllr Linda Holt, board member of Mossmorran Action Group on announcement of ExxonMobil investment at Mossmorran said: “ExxonMobil is dazzling people with numbers. 

"The fact is they have not been running their plant reliably, flaring has been unacceptable in duration and intensity, two major components failing have caused an extended shut down, SEPA rejected their initial BAT proposals and now HSE has issued an action notice about the explosion risk from fuel buildups.

"The company has ducked and dived when it comes to being transparent and accountable with its neighbouring communities and elected representatives.

"I very much doubt Exxon is spending a penny more than it is being forced to, and this would not be happening without sustained pressure from communities, politicians and regulators.”

Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath MP Lesley Laird said: "This major investment justifies the concerns communities have expressed for years about Mossmorran and its operations.

"Residents were patronised for the most part, and those who dared raised concerns publicly were derided for scaremongering.

"It is only through the concerted pressure of the Mossmorran Working Group that SEPA, HSE and the companies have finally all had to face up to the reality that communities had reached their absolute limit, and that they would have to act as the plant was clearly not fit for purpose.

"More detailed responses are now required from all of these organisations as to how, under the watchful eye of SEPA and HSE, Fife Ethylene Plant was allowed to deteriorate to this extent.

"Roseanna Cunningham MSP said there is no justification for an independent review – she is wrong and needs to face up to what was an escalating list of issues at the plant. Splashing the cash now should not be used to cover up long-term operational failures, and lessons need to be learned.

"I’ll be writing again to both plants, watchdogs and Roseanna Cunningham MSP. The Mossmorran Working Group is not going away and we will be redoubling our efforts to ensure questions are answered at our next meeting in October."

The plant has had a difficult year with several incidences of unplanned flaring the last one being when two boilers broke down and the plant had to be completely shut down.

In May a public meeting was held at Lochgelly Town Hall, called by the Mossmorran Action Group, queried problems posed by periods of unplanned flaring and then SEPA put forward a series of guidelines they wished to see followed by both Exxon/Mobil and Shell, who operate the NGL plant at the site, to see unplanned flaring reduced as far as possible.

The Fife Ethylene Plant began operations in 1985 and has a production capacity of over 800,000 tonnes of ethylene a year. Over the last 30 years, it has been a major employer in the area, currently employing over 270 employees and core contractors, with more than 60 percent living within 10 miles of the plant.