Red sky at night ... Mossmoran’s flaring

Mossmorran flaring. Picture submitted by Robert McDermott.
Mossmorran flaring. Picture submitted by Robert McDermott.
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THE sky across Fife shone brightly at the end of last week and over the weekend as a result of elevated gas flaring at Mossmorran.

The large flame from the ethylene plant in Cowdenbeath could be seen for miles, with reports of sightings online from across the Forth in Midlothian and on the other side of the Tay.

ExxonMobil Chemical Limited who run the plant said the flaring, which began on Thursday, was the result of a “process upset” at the site.

The large flames and bright red glow sparked a number of calls to fire services in both Fife and Lothian and Borders.

A spokesman for Fife Fire and Rescue Service said a number of calls had been received from members of the public in relation to the situation both on Thursday and Friday evenings.

And social networking sites Facebook and Twitter went wild with comments and speculation about the spectacular glow in the sky over the Kingdom.

There were several Lord of the Rings references to the Eye of Sauron and Mordor, as well as some from people in the Edinburgh area suggesting Fife was on fire.

Essential flaring

But in a statement from the plant released on Friday, a spokesman explained elevated flaring would take place for approximately 48 hours because of a “process upset” on the Feed Treatment Unit.

He said: “The flare is an essential part of the plant’s safety systems and at no time will there be any risk to local communities or employees.

“It is our aim to keep flaring to a minimum.”

ExxonMobil Chemical Limited apologised for any inconvenience or concern caused to the local community.

Although flaring at the plant is not uncommon, many reports suggested the flare on this occasion was larger than it’s been for some time.

Lochgelly and Cardenden councillor, Ian Chisholm, told the Press: “Safety both to the local community and to the workforce at the plant is paramount.

“While the flaring on this occasion has been very bright and frightening for many residents I have great faith in the professional engineers who run the plant.

Safety record

“The safety record has been outstanding over the years and the operators seem to have spent a lot on new equipment and replacing older equipment.

“Because the raw gas is coming from the North Sea in a continuous stream it is very difficult to switch off...it could be done if there was a serious problem but when we see the flare we know it is doing its job.”

During the period of elevated flaring, which continued over the weekend, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) was contacted by some members of the public.

A spokesman for the agency said this week: “SEPA was aware of further elevated flaring at the ExxonMobil Fife Ethylene Plant (FEP) plant at Mossmorran, Fife.

“This was required following an incident on Thursday evening and we were advised the flaring was likely to continue over the weekend.

“Two SEPA Officers were on site on Friday to carry out an initial investigation.

“Apart from the flare, there appeared to have been minimal impact on the environment.

“We are continuing to liaise with the operator for further details.”