Ineos has been underestimating climate pollution from its chemical plants at Grangemouth since 2016, according to the Scottish Government’s green watchdog.
Sepa says that Ineos had omitted “in error” carbon dioxide emissions from a gas boiler at Kinneil terminal on the Firth of Forth, as well as some flaring. The omissions are “shocking” and “concerning”, say campaigners.
Every year since 2011 Ineos Chemicals has been telling Sepa how much carbon dioxide its plants at Grangemouth release to the atmosphere. The gas is a major driver of global climate change.
Figures for all industries have been published online as part of Sepa’s Scottish Pollution Release Inventory (SPRI). They have repeatedly shown Ineos Chemicals as one of the country’s biggest polluters.
When the latest figures for 2018 were published in March 2020, the company was the fifth highest emitter in Scotland. The Ferret reported at the time that it discharged 617,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide into the air.
But now Sepa has deleted the figure from SPRI website, as well as the previously reported emissions for 2017 and 2016. They are all now marked “not yet agreed”, which means the information “has not passed Sepa’s quality assurance procedures”.
Sepa noticed a problem when the 2018 data was submitted by Ineos Chemicals. “Sepa’s quality audits highlighted an error in the previous years’ data,” the agency’s head of environmental quality, Martin Marsden, told The Ferret.
“Sepa requested Ineos Chemicals to review its data due to a discrepancy between its Emissions Trading Scheme and SPRI reporting. Figures had been under-reported as it has since been determined that one particular piece of equipment is not exempt from SPRI reporting.”
The Emissions Trading Scheme is run by the European Union in an effort to reduce pollution. It requires companies to report emissions of carbon dioxide and other climate-disrupting gases annually.
Marsden continued: “Information was corrected before the SPRI data for 2018 was published and the site was asked to review data for the last five years. This was returned in a timely manner and further changes to previous years are now being assessed while the 2019 data return is being checked.
“These revisions to historic data will be published in due course…Corrections are made in line with Sepa’s data correction policy.”
When pressed by The Ferret, Sepa identified the equipment at Grangemouth that was the source of the unreported emissions. “The difference is mainly due to emissions from the Kinneil gas boiler as well as some background flaring from purges and pilots which were excluded from SPRI data in error,” it said.
Ineos under fire
Friends of the Earth Scotland called for action to phase out the “fossil fuel plastics” made at Grangemouth. “It’s shocking that as we try to tackle the climate emergency, Ineos, one of the biggest polluters in Scotland, has been underestimating its climate dioxide emissions,” said the environmental group’s plastics campaigner, Sarah Moyes.
“This mistake should make a mockery of any claims Ineos might make about taking climate change seriously. Plastic is a major contributor to climate change and with Ineos we have the largest producer of plastic in the UK right on our doorstep.”
The Scottish Greens accused Ineos of having no interest in playing an active role in tackling the climate emergency. “It is extremely concerning that the biggest polluter in Scotland cannot provide accurate data for how much it is contributing to our greenhouse gas emissions,” said the party’s energy and environment spokesperson, Mark Ruskell MSP.
“The question now is what Sepa – and the Scottish Government – are going to do to address the lack of leadership from those who run our fossil fuel relics.”
“All of this is driving the transition towards a resource and energy efficient society, and the chemical industry has a central role to play in enabling this shift.”
The company points out that chemicals are essential in many of the technologies needed for a more sustainable future. “Sustainability and petrochemical industry are not antagonistic, on the contrary,” it adds.
“At Ineos, sustainability is fundamental to how we do business. It is a key driver of innovation…We commit to safely conduct our business in an ethical and environmentally responsible manner.
“The contribution that our industry can bring to reducing carbon emissions is significant. At Ineos we take on the challenges of emissions reductions by making products that positively impact carbon efficiency and lead to carbon dioxide savings.”
Photo thanks to iStock/Dave Collins.