Mossmorran: Shell limits North Sea gas to reduce flaring

Flaring seen from Cowdenbeath in SeptemberImage copyright Kevin Grant/Mossmorran Action Group
Image caption Shell flaring seen from Cowdenbeath in September

A raft of measures have been put in place to reduce the quantity of ethane Shell is being pressured to flare whereas the Mossmorran plant in Fife is shut.

Shell has been left with a surplus of ethane since its buyer Exxonmobil briefly closed the plant in August.

Now Shell mentioned it had switched from powering its furnaces with propane to utilizing ethane and lowered the quantity of North Sea gas it receives.

Residents mentioned they’d not observed a lot change in flaring.

However, Shell mentioned it had managed to reduce flaring of ethane “significantly” because of the brand new measures, which additionally embody including ethane into family’s provide of methane.

Exxonmobil’s plant on the website can be closed till mid December for work to be carried out to make the plant extra “reliable”.

Since the Fife Ethylene Plant was briefly closed down Shell mentioned it “did not have the storage capacity for the significant quantities of ethane produced from North Sea gas”.

Shell separates methane, which is utilized in houses throughout the nation to energy cookers, boilers and fires, from North Sea gas on the St Fergus plant in Aberdeenshire.

The remainder of the combination of North Sea gas, ethane, propane and butane is then piped to Shell’s Fife Natural Gas Liquids plant in Mossmorran.

It then processes propane and butane for onward distribution and it sells the remaining ethane to the neighbouring Exxonmobil plant at Mossmorran, which turns it into ethylene.

However, Exxonmobil is Shell’s solely ethane buyer so whereas it has been shut down Shell has been burning it off by flaring.

Now Shell mentioned it has discovered a means to mitigate the issue by including some ethane into the methane utilized in houses in addition to switching the gas provide to its furnaces and decreasing the quantity of gas it receives from North Sea fields.

Andy Adam, 55, who lives in Cowdenbeath which is close to the Mossmorran website, informed BBC Scotland: “I welcome Shell trying to make changes but I haven’t seen much of a reduction in the ground flares since Exxon shut in August.”

Image caption Exxonmobil’s ethylene plant at Mossmorran is briefly shut down till mid December

A Shell spokesman mentioned it was “very unusual” for them to have to take such measures.

“Since mid-August Shell has been briefly lowering the general quantity of gas it receives from North Sea fields, to decrease the quantity of ethane introduced to shore. This is being achieved in shut coordination with the nationwide grid.

“At the St Fergus plant now we have adjusted operations to briefly add a big portion of the ethane which comes ashore to the combo that we use to provide the nationwide grid – as a lot as is permitted inside the specs of residence home equipment reminiscent of gas hobs and boilers. Normally, this ethane would go to Mossmorran.

“At Mossmorran to further minimise the amount of flaring we have also temporarily switched the fuel supply we use for the furnaces of the Shell plant in Mossmorran to ethane instead of its usual source.”

‘New issues’

James Glen, chairman of Mossmorran Action Group mentioned: “Ground flaring has been a everlasting fixture at Shell for the final three months, prompting steady complaints from close by residents about gentle air pollution, vibration and well being impacts.

“While floor flaring is much less intrusive than elevated flaring, Shell’s extended steady floor flaring has created new and elevated issues for native communities.”

Ian Buchanan, chief officer on the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa), mentioned: “It’s proper that each companies work collectively to each proceed to minimise impacts of the present shutdown and handle the foundation causes of flaring.”

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