Fife chemical plant disrupts lives, inspires community action

On Sunday October 4th, Mossmorran, a petrochemical plant in Fife, started an unscheduled flaring, which led to local residents experiencing disruptive noises, light, vibrations, and health issues.

ExxonMobile, who operate the site, said that the flaring was caused by a faulty compressor.

Controlled flaring is a necessary safety feature of industrial sites, used to release excess gas.

However, it has been happening in Mossmorran for decades and recently has become more common.

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This time, the flaring lasted several days and could be seen from as far as the Scottish Borders, as well as from Edinburgh.

Locals have shared images of the flaring online and commented that it “looks like a huge explosion”, “smells vile” and that it is the worst one they ever experienced.

Many people are convinced that operations at the plant are causing not only short-term health problems such as headaches, itchy eyes, and rashes, but also serious illnesses including asthma and cancer.

The Scottish Environmental Protection Agency has put monitors around the site, which was built in 1985 to process natural gas, and reported that they continue to demonstrate no breach in air quality standards.

Elaine Green, a local campaigner active in the Mossmorran Action Group, told The Student that she thinks this is “a pile of lies” and pointed out that there are a series of wind turbines “strategically placed [around the site] to disperse the toxins”.

Mossmorran has since returned to standard operations and ExxonMobile has apologised for “the frustration that the use of the flare can cause” and assured residents that they “continue to work to reduce future occurrences”.

While the locals are glad that the flaring has stopped, they are not satisfied and continue to organise and campaign, especially through the Mossmorran Action Group and Climate Camp Scotland.

The Scottish Greens started a petition which calls for an urgent independent inquiry into the future of Mossmorran, including developing a plan to close the plant and invest into green industries in the area instead.

As of the 9th October, the petition has more than 5600 signatures.

People and Planet Edinburgh, a climate justice group based in The University of Edinburgh, shared in a statement to The Student: “It is imperative that our transition away from fossil fuels is just – we need to create jobs in the renewables sector for those who are currently working with fossil fuels.

“We also need to make sure that it is not the poorest and most oppressed members of our community who pay the price. People living in the vicinity of Mossmorran have for too long put up with the disruption to their lives while the Scottish Government ignores the problem – it is time Scotland saw a Just Transition.” 

Mark Ruskell, a Green MSP for Mid-Lothian and Fife, put forward a motion in the Scottish Parliament, calling for the creation of a Just Transition board for Mossmorran.

The motion also acknowledged that a detailed plan will be needed to support workers and the local community to transition to new green industries.

One of the objectives of this board would be to develop such a plan.

The motion was debated on the 29th September and despite all parties speaking in favour of the Just Transition board, the Government minister stated that this was not something the government were willing to do at this time.

Speaking to The Student, Friends of the Earth Scotland said that they hope “all the publicity around the recent flaring will keep this on the parliamentary agenda”.

The Mossmorran Action Group and local community remain equally hopeful and are determined to keep going.

Image: Richard Webb via