FLARING at Mossmorran is hoped to become an "exception rather than routine" as a £140 million project starts in April.

The multi-million investment into the ExxonMobil Fife Ethylene Plant will begin next month in a move designed to reduce the impact of flaring and improve site reliability.

Environmental watchdog SEPA (Scottish Environmental Protection Agency) says the complex now has a "clear pathway to compliance" as 1,000 workers deliver more than 300,000 hours to improve the facility.

Installation of a noise reducing flare tip and ExxonMobil's commitment to installing a fully enclosed ground flare in 2022 will reduce the use of the elevated flare by 98 per cent, the company says.

The move follows Final Warning Letters, the submission of a report to the Crown Office for consideration of prosecution in July 2020 in relation to the flaring at the Mossmorran complex during April 2019 and a series of stringent regulatory requirements and permit variations on both operators requiring defined actions.

The announcement comes as SEPA publishes Irish Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) best practice review which will lead to community participation in the design of a site monitoring network, enhanced visibility of compliance and monitoring reports and a new online regulatory hub.

The best practice review was commissioned by SEPA in May last year to share good practice and advise on any further actions that may be taken to drive compliance at the Mossmorran site.

The review was part of a package of measures announced by SEPA including an independent technical assessment of the ground flare installation timeline from ExxonMobil Chemical Limited, the publication of ambient air quality monitoring reports and support for Fife Council’s review of community liaison structures.

From the recommendations of the Irish Environmental Protection Agency best practice review, some nine actions are already underway by SEPA, a further eight will be taken forward, one will be considered and two are rejected.

Key recommendations will see SEPA’s programme of environmental monitoring extended with community participation in its design, enhanced visibility of regulatory monitoring results and investment in a refreshed online community information hub.

"At SEPA we’ve been clear that compliance with Scotland’s environmental laws is non-negotiable, that flaring at the Mossmorran complex was unacceptable and must become the exception rather than routine," said Terry A’Hearn, chief executive of the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, said.

“We’ve also been clear that our actions present a clear pathway to compliance for the industrial complex and that what mattered to communities was actions rather than words.

Mr A'Hearn added: "Communities across Fife have the right to a future where flaring is the exception rather than routine. Robust regulation takes time but through our work and the significant investment by site operators, hope and a clear pathway to compliance is now in sight for local communities who can be assured of our enhanced vigilance over this important period and beyond."

Laura Burke, director general of the EPA, also stated: “Following our review, we have considerable confidence in SEPA’s approach to ensuring compliance at the Mossmorran complex."