Operators of a controversial gas plant are to install new equipment designed to make flaring less disruptive.
ExxonMobil will install a new “enclosed ground flare” at the Fife Ethylene Plant (FEP) in Mossmorran, near Cowdenbeath, by the end of 2022.
The new flare will largely replace the 130m-tall existing flare stack that has been the target of much criticism for years.
Flare stacks give off bright flames that can be seen for miles around when used to burn off excess gases produced at the plant.
Kevin Poot, technical and engineering manager at FEP, promised that visible flaring would be reduced to 2% of its current levels.
“We’ve had our share of flaring events and we’re sorry for that,” he told a Fife Council meeting.
“Our reliability has not been as good as we wanted it to be and we appreciate that flaring can cause disruption to communities because of the noise and the light.
“We’ve listened to the community’s concerns and we’re taking action.”
The enclosed flare will be 31m tall and sit camouflaged among the other equipment at the facility, which is undergoing £140m of upgrades to improve reliability and reduce the overall need for flaring.
Among the upgrades is a new noise-reducing elevated flare tip from Italy, which has been delivered and is set to be installed in the coming weeks.
ExxonMobil, backed by numerous studies by Fife Council and environment body SEPA, insists flaring is safe – but does not deny its disruptive qualities.
The company was investigated by SEPA and referred to prosecutors last year over an extended flaring event in spring 2019.
“This site is a very complex machine,” Poot said of the plant as a whole.
“The flare will have a significant positive impact in the community. It is my firm belief that this ground flare will be operational by year-end 2022.”
Ground flares are a fairly new and emerging technology that is only used by a handful of gas plants around the world, making the Fife plant a leader in the field.
Stuart Neil, external affairs manager with ExxonMobil, said the company aimed to engage more with locals to educate them on how the flare will work and to reassure them over the plant’s impact on their local area.
Story by local democracy reporter Jon Brady