Ineos smoke clouds cause concern for Grangemouth residents

Last weekend’s black plumes of smoke emitting from its Grangemouth site are not the only dark clouds hanging over Ineos.

Local councillor David Balfour took residents’ complaints about Saturday afternoon’s excessive emissions to the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), but recent decisions by Scottish Ministers have not exactly made it easy for the environment watchdog to lay down the law when it comes to the petrochemical giant.

Following Saturday’s incident, Ineos issued information warning residents efforts to control the emissions from two chimneys – which it described as an “unplanned outage” – could continue into the night.

A spokesperson said: “We are now dealing with an unplanned outage. We will make every effort to minimise the level and duration of the flaring. We apologise in advance for any inconvenience this may cause our local neighbours and thank you for your patience.

“We remain committed to informing our local community and those who live and work nearby of our activities that may result in flaring.”

Commenting on last weekend’s incident Rob Morris, SEPA Senior Manager, Compliance and Beyond, said: “On Saturday, April 20 complaints of unplanned flaring at Grangemouth from Petroineos and Ineos Chemicals Grangemouth Limited were received through SEPA’s 24 hour Pollution Hotline.

“Every day SEPA works to protect and enhance Scotland’s environment. Whilst flaring is an important safety mechanism and is permitted through permit conditions, we deployed a regulatory response to inform our understanding of the nature of the event. Social media updates were also provided across the short environmental event.

“Real time monitoring of ambient air quality is carried out at ground level and the information for Grangemouth and Falkirk is available on the Air Quality in Scotland website. SEPA experts have reviewed the data, liaised with Falkirk Council, and found that the reported air pollution levels over the weekend were low.

“While at an early stage, we’re limited in what information we can provide as we are currently awaiting investigation reports from the operators with more detail about what happened, which we will carefully assess. We will also respond to complainants once we have the relevant facts.”

Last year SEPA put forward proposed restrictions to limit the noise from night time flaring at the site to below 54 decibels.

Last month Scottish Ministers upheld an appeal by Ineos after a government inquiry concluded SEPA’s proposed restrictions were “unreasonable”, “irrational” and failed to take account of the impact on the company’s business.

This means SEPA’s proposed 54 decibels level will not be a limit which Ineos must comply with – instead it is an objective which Ineos must take steps to strive to attain through an internal improvement programme.

Ineos stated shutdowns caused by SEPA’s restrictions would reduce revenue and earnings for upstream users by £112 million a year.

SEPA said it moved in late 2017 to vary the site’s permit to protect the local community from the impacts of flaring. Following the ministers’ decision the organisation stated it will now consider its next steps in liaison with community stakeholders and site owners at Ineos.

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