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New air quality network for Mossmorran communities

Date published: 23 March 2023


Communities around the Mossmorran Complex are now able to see the air quality in their area in close to real time, with the launch of a new monitoring network from the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA).

It follows on from community participation in the design of a new air quality monitoring network, and a refreshed online regulatory hub designed to make it easier than ever to find information about SEPA’s regulation of the Fife Natural Liquids Plant and Fife Ethylene Plant.

As a result, SEPA has moved towards new air quality analysers with a wider geographic spread, providing information on a wider range of pollutants than it was previously able to, broadening the scope of monitoring to provide greater reassurance.

Analysers are positioned in communities, so they monitor the air quality where people live and work - and the new equipment has enabled the regulator to explore better ways of presenting data and trends on the levels of the pollutants measured.

The SEPA Mossmorran Air Quality Network can be accessed online. It is also accessible from SEPA’s regulatory hub where there is also more information about the new equipment and monitoring approach.

More monitors, easier access to data

In response to community concerns, SEPA has been monitoring air quality in three community locations, Auchtertool, Donibristle (near Cowdenbeath) and Lochgelly since August 2019. 

Whilst monitoring has shown no breaches of the air quality standards in that time, attendees across a series of community engagement sessions in 2021 were clear that there was a strong desire for permanent monitoring of air quality in communities and simple, easy to understand and timely data.

The agency’s new monitoring approach consists of a monitoring station and a network of analysers deployed in local communities around the Mossmorran complex. This gives a clearer understanding of air quality in the whole Mossmorran area. 

Instead of waiting for monthly reports from SEPA, people can now access the data online in almost real time, choosing which sites and pollutants they want to look at.

New technology

The monitoring station has been placed in Auchtertool as it is the most suitable location in a downwind direction from the Mossmorran complex. The station needs to be situated in a local community, with access to a power supply, and easily accessible for maintenance. This station will provide high quality data that can be directly compared to the Scottish air quality standards and objectives. 

The network of analysers consists of eight lamp post mounted multi-pollutant devices which will provide indicative data for the wider communities around the Mossmorran complex. These analysers are easier to locate than the reference analysers due to their size and power requirements and can be installed in more accessible locations. They are useful in assessing short-term trends in pollutants; provide greater geographical coverage both up and down wind of the site; and monitor for a wider range of pollutants - including nitrogen dioxide, ground-level ozone and particulate matter. 

All analysers continue to show that there have been no breaches of the air quality standards since monitoring began.

Chris Dailly, SEPA’s Head of Environmental Performance, said:

“We’re pleased that in line with our regulatory requirements, a series of key investments and improvements have been made at the Mossmorran Complex over the last few years, to make flaring an exception rather than routine, and minimise the impact on communities when flaring is required. The investment we’ve required the operators to make, from noise reducing flare tips in 2020 and 2021 to planning and designing new ground flare capacity, will continue over the next few years as that new capacity comes into operation.

“A key area of our focus has been the future monitoring of Mossmorran, where we know there is significant community interest.  Rather than design this in isolation, we heard directly from local residents, to allow them to have their say on a future monitoring network and share how we could best publish, present and help explain what we find. The launch of the SEPA Mossmorran Air Quality Network brings this phase of work to completion, and we hope that the community finds reassurance in the wider range of pollutants measured, and the ability to view data in close to real time.”

Notes to editors

The network of analysers in communities (known as AQ Mesh units) are located in:

  • Aberdour
  • Auchtertool
  • Burntisland
  • Cardenden
  • Coaledge
  • Cowdenbeath
  • Kirkcaldy
  • Lochgelly 

SEPA’s noise monitors remain in place at a community location in Lochgelly and a site close to the Complex. While these are continuously monitoring, the data cannot be made available in close to real time due to the degree of data processing that is required to interpret the data.