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Huge gas flaring was visible at the Mossmorran petrochemical plant in Fife on Thursday night as operators ExxonMobil restart the plant.
Many local residents took to social media to complain, with reports of the flames being visible from Edinburgh.
The plant was shut down last year following persistent flaring episodes.
ExxonMobil said the elevated flare was being used as part of the restart work, and apologised for any intrusion.
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A spokesman said the process of restarting the plant was “safe and controlled”, adding: “Our team are working to reduce both the size and duration of the flare.”
He added: “We apologise to communities for any concern that we may have caused.”
In recent years local residents have complained of repeated unscheduled flaring incidents leading to noise, disturbed sleep, light pollution and vibration to houses.
The process of flaring involves burning off gas that cannot be processed. The site, which is shared by ExxonMobil Chemical Ltd and Shell Fife NGL, is used to produce ethylene.
Although the technique is legally permitted, it causes significant light and noise pollution which the operator is obliged to minimise.
The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) said in a post on social media that it had received a high volume of calls about the flaring, adding that it was “working hard to address the root-causes of ‘unacceptable flaring’, making flaring an exception rather than the routine”.
A spokeswoman said: “Sepa is aware of fluctuations in the elevated flare at Mossmorran as part of the final stage of the facility restart and specialist officers continue to monitor.
“The short and medium-term investment we’re requiring the operators to make, from noise reducing flare tips in 2020 and 2021 and planning, designing then delivering new ground flare capacity, will make a real difference to local communities.”
Residents from miles around the plant, which is close to Cowdenbeath, took to social media to complain – with one Twitter user in Edinburgh describing the flare “as bright as streetlights”, despite being 13 miles away.
James Glen, chairman of Mossmorran Action Group, said on Thursday: “Tonight’s flaring is absolutely unacceptable. Residents feel utterly abandoned by the Scottish government and Sepa, who are letting multi-national Exxon get away with murder.
“Our Facebook page and twitter feeds have blown up. People are petrified, they can’t breathe properly, they are worried sick about the pollution spewing from the plant and they have been left completely in the dark about what is going on.
“Sepa’s response has been pitiful. They knew this flaring was coming but they don’t even have bodies on the ground monitoring.”
He added: “Ministers are in hiding and have consistently refused to come to the area to hear from local communities while ministers hobnob with Exxon and applaud their investment in the plant, investment which became inevitable until the maintenance of the plant was so neglected that two (in HSE’s words)”explosions” and “catastrophic breakdowns” last August forced the ethylene plant to shut down for six months.”