Ineos gas leak: ‘Lack of information’ caused public panic

Emergency services work to contain the ethylene gas leak at the Kinneil Gas manufacturing plant at Ineos. Picture: Michael Gillen
Emergency services work to contain the ethylene gas leak at the Kinneil Gas manufacturing plant at Ineos. Picture: Michael Gillen

Safety concerns have been raised following a gas leak at the Ineos petrochemical plant in Grangemouth sparking a major emergency incident.

Around 40 firefighters, police officers, ambulance crews and the company’s own emergency response team raced to contain the leak from a pipeline carrying ethylene gas at the refinery’s KG (Kinneil Gas) manufacturing plant shortly after noon on Tuesday.

MSP Angus MacDonald has raised concerns over procedures during major incidents at Ineos

MSP Angus MacDonald has raised concerns over procedures during major incidents at Ineos

Staff were evacuated from the affected area of the 700 hectare site, main roads around the plant were closed off, residents were instructed to stay indoors and nearby schools went into lockdown as panic spread throughout the town and the surrounding areas.

While the leak was being contained late in the afternoon a multi-agency meeting including representatives from the Scottish Government, emergency services, Falkirk Council, SEPA, NHS Forth Valley and industry experts met to discuss the fall-out from the incident, which was completely resolved at around 10pm.

There were no injuries and all 1000 employees were accounted for, however, Unite the union and politicians have raised questions over safety and the response from the company.

The union said the incident highlights the need for Ineos to work with them to safeguard public and worker safety at the plant, after steps taken by the global firm to ‘derecognise’ the union.

Unite Scottish secretary, Pat Rafferty said: “I urge the managers now to accept that co-operation is the best policy when it comes to ensuring that Grangemouth stays safe, and drop this damaging and needless effort to break the union. The public need to have confidence that this site is being run on co-operation, not confrontation.”

Falkirk East MSP Angus MacDonald has issues over the communication during the incident to the local population.

He said: “The incident highlights the clear necessity for effective communication in situations like this. My overriding concern is that clear instruction and information were not made available for a considerable period of time, which resulted in a level of public concern over reports from several outlets, which was understandable given the situation.”

In response to the safety concerns, an Ineos spokesperson said: “Our emergency management teams responded professionally to a leak of ethylene gas from a section of pipe in the KG ethylene plant.

“A well-practised response plan was instigated and the incident was brought to a safe conclusion. All personnel were accounted for and there were no injuries.”

Ineos said a full investigation into the cause of the leak is underway in conjunction with industry regulators.

Response praised

Police Scotland has praised the response of the emergency services, first responders and Ineos staff for their ‘tireless’ work during Tuesday’s major incident at the Grangemouth plant.

Officers were forced to close off roads around the refinery and deal with safety enquiries from members of the public.

Superintendent Brian Auld of Falkirk Police said “I’d like to thank again the local community, employees and all involved in the emergency response for their patience, support and professionalism while emergency services and industry personnel worked together to manage this incident.

“I can give an assurance that disruption to the local road network was minimised and only necessary to ensure the safety of all, however, I recognise that the local community were concerned by the circumstances of this incident and the time taken to achieve resolution.

“Can I reassure all members of the community that the actions of first responders and Ineos staff reduced the potential for escalation and worked tirelessly to reduce the impact to the public.”

MSP Angus MacDonald also thanked emergency service staff for their dedication.

“I am pleased that this incident passed with no injuries or fatalities and my thanks goes to the emergency services and response teams who dealt with the situation and brought it under control in what was, clearly, a very difficult and worrying situation.”