(Fife Ethylene Plant, Fife Natural Gas Liquids Fractionation Plant)

The processing plant, Mossmorran
©2022 Gazetteer for Scotland

The processing plant, Mossmorran

The site of a petrochemical processing plant on the edge of a mossy tract of land to the south of Cowdenbeath, W Fife. The plant consists of two related facilities; the Fife Natural Gas Liquids Fractionation Plant and the Fife Ethylene Plant, the former operated by Shell Expro, the latter by ExxonMobil. Development at Mossmorran began in 1981, following a detailed planning inquiry completed in 1977, and the facility was officially opened by HM Queen Elizabeth II in 1986.

Liquid gas is piped to Mossmorran from the North Sea, via the St. Fergus Gas Shore Station near Peterhead. This is separated into ethane, propane, butane and longer-chain hydrocarbons which form petrol. Ethane is then converted into ethylene which is a basic hydrocarbon 'building block' of the petrochemical industry. The site's products are piped 3 miles (4.8 km) to the Braefoot Bay Marine Terminal and fed into tankers and gas carriers for markets on the Continent and in the USA. Ethane and ethylene are also piped to the BP-Ineos plant at Grangemouth on the S shore of the Firth of Forth and onwards into a UK pipeline grid.

Employing around 220 staff, the plant handles 4.5 million tonnes of liquids per year and has an annual output of 830,000 tonnes of ethylene. The original plant was built to handle liquids extracted from Shell/Exxon's Brent Field and other discoveries in North Sea waters east of Shetland. Later expansion equipped Mossmorran to handle hydrocarbons transported in pipelines serving fields in the central North Sea. It is also now processing shale gas brought from the USA, via Grangemouth.

A survey in 1990 showed that the combined Mossmorran-Braefoot Bay facilities together injected more than £35 million a year into the Scottish economy. Gas is flared for reasons of safety and over-production, but these flares have proven controversial due to pollution, visibility and waste.

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