Skip to main content

How we regulate Mossmorran

The Mossmorran Complex and Braefoot Bay Marine Terminal

The Shell U.K. Limited Fife Natural Gas Liquids (FNGL) plant receives Natural Gas Liquids (NGL) from the St. Fergus gas terminal, separating the incoming NGL stream into propane, ethane, butane and natural gasoline.

Ethane is sent to the adjoining ExxonMobil Chemical Limited (ExxonMobil) Fife Ethylene Plant (FEP) whilst the other products are sent off-sire to the adjacent Avanti gas terminal, via road taker or via pipeline to the Braefoot Bay Marine terminal for export by ship.

The ExxonMobil FEP produces ethylene from ethane through a process known as "thermal or steam cracking". Additional ethane can be received from Ineos Chemical Grangemouth Limited via a pipeline.

Ethylene is either exported by ship via the Braefoot Bay Marine Terminal or to other consumers in the UK via the cross-country ethylene distribution system.

Regulating the Mossmorran and Braefoot Bay Complexes

The sites at the Mossmorran Complex and the Braefoot Bay Marine terminal are regulated by a number of organisation including SEPA, Fife Council and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

We also consult with NHS Fife, Health Protection Scotland and Forth Ports in order to gain information and views to support out regulatory work.

This section provides information on the regulatory regimes SEPA uses to regulate the Mossmorran Complex and information on the permits.

Information on complaints, inspections and planned compliance work is available under Compliance and enforcement.

Both operators are regulated under Part A of the Pollution Prevention and Control (Scotland) Regulations 2012 (PPC Part A) and the Control of Major Accident Hazard Regulations 2015 (COMAH).

The Shell U.K. Limited (FNGL) permit consists of an original permit and eight subsequent variations.

The ExxonMobil Chemical Limited (FEP) permit consists of an original permit and ten subsequent variations.

No permits or licences are issued for COMAH.

Sites regulated under PPC Part A are generally larger industrial activities, potentially involving discharges to land, air, and water (including odour and noise), and include activities such as energy production, mineral activities, fertiliser production, and certain types of waste management.

SEPA cannot regulate light as it is not listed as a pollutant in PPC 2012. However, it is anticipated that the improvements driven by SEPA, for example reductions in the frequency and duration of flaring and the installation of totally enclosed ground flares at the Fife Ethylene Plant will all reduce the amount of light form flaring experienced by the community.


ExxonMobil Braefoot Bay Marine terminal is regulated under:

Sites regulated under PPC Part B are generally smaller scale activities and only emissions to air (including odour) are regulated. The PPC Part B only covers the bulk storage of ethylene at the site.

SEPA cannot regulate noise at sites with a Part B permit which is the responsibility of the Local Authority.

CAR applies regulatory controls over activities which may affect the water environment including removing water from surface and groundwater (abstraction), discharges to the water environment (including waste products, chemicals, oil and sewage), and engineering works in rivers, lochs and wetlands. At the Braefoot Bay Marine terminal it allows discharge of sewage effluent, fire water system and surface water within defined conditions. 

Shell Braefoot Bay Marine terminal is regulated under COMAH. No activities covered by the PPC Regulations are undertaken by Shell. No permits or licences are issues for COMAH.

Control of Major Accident Hazards (COMAH)

All of the sites at the Mossmorran Complex and the Braefoot Bay Marine Terminal are regulated under the Control of Major Accident Hazard Regulations 2015 (COMAH), which are jointly regulated in Scotland, by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and SEPA as the Competent Authority. Qualifying establishments are divided into Lower Tier and Upper Tier establishments based on quantities of dangerous substances held on the site. 

No permits or licences are issued within the COMAH regime, further information on COMAH is available on the Health and Safety Executive website.

Public Information about Establishments that are covered by the COMAH Regulations can be found at COMAH 2015 public information webpage

In addition to carrying out routine regular inspections under both PPC and COMAH, SEPA has a duty to carry out investigations into incidents under both regulatory regimes.  

Safety is the remit of HSE. Some incidents may have implications for both safety and the environment, in such cases we will investigate the environmental aspects and HSE the safety aspects, depending on the circumstances this might be done jointly or separately. SEPA focuses on the environmental aspects of incidents although there is often an overlap with safety aspects considered under COMAH by HSE. 

Irish Environment Protection Agency Regulatory Review

 As part of SEPA's commitment to further strengthen the regulation and monitoring at Mossmorran, in May 2020 it asked the Irish Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) to share good practice and advise on any further actions that may be taken to drive compliance at the Mossmorran site. The peer review was part of a package of measures announced by SEPA which also included an independent technical assessment of the ground flare installation timeline from ExxonMobil Chemical Limited and support for Fife Council’s review of community liaison structures.  

Some nine recommendations were already underway by SEPA, a further eight were taken forward, one was considered and two were rejected as not being suitable in this instance. Key recommendations saw 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. 

The Peer review of SEPA’s Regulation of the PPC Permit for the ExxonMobil Chemical Ltd Fife Ethylene Installation is available, alongside our final response to the Mossmorran best practice review