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The energy giant said that, if approved, the work will take two years and should reduce the potential disturbance to neighbouring communities.
Locals have long complained about the smoke, noise, vibrations and light pollution from repeated incidents of ‘apocalyptic’ flaring from the elevated stacks at Fife NGL Plant and Fife Ethylene Plant, run by ExxonMobil.
Both companies were issued with final warnings in 2018 from the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (Sepa) who, last year, varied Shell’s permit and told them to have a new enclosed ground flare (EGF) up and running by the end of 2025.
A statement on behalf of the company explained: “The existing flares at Shell’s NGL plant were constructed circa 1984-1985 and have remained in operation since.
“Flaring (the burning of excess gas) is occasionally required to run the plant safely, acting like a safety valve when the plant is not in normal processing.
“This proposed development seeks to minimise the impact from these flaring activities through installation of new and improved technology.”
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It continued: “The proposed EGF will smokelessly combust flare gas, primarily ethane and butane gas which would otherwise be routed through the elevated flare.
“The elevated flare will remain a safety mechanism but the EGF will significantly minimise its use.”
After repeated incidents of unplanned flaring down the years, described as “Mordor-esque” by an MSP due to the fiery red flames that light up the sky and can often be seen for miles, both companies were under pressure to act.
ExxonMobil spent £140m on plant improvements and earlier this summer their own multi-million pound enclosed ground flare was put into operation.
Shell’s own version will be a maximum height of 30 metres and will be designed to contain light and flames, reducing visibility and providing ‘acoustic insulation’.
The new enclosed ground flare will replace two existing ground flares, that are around 40-years-old, and improve performance.
The planning statement added: “This best available technology will minimise noise, vibration and smoke associated with flaring and whilst there will be some light emission, the effects will be less than the existing Shell ground flare technology or the elevated flare.”
During construction, which is expected to take two years, the peak number of workers is expected to be around 70.
At this stage in the planning process, Shell have asked Fife Council if an environmental impact assessment will be required.