ExxonMobil says it is investing in the “best available technology” to lessen the impact of flaring at its Mossmorran plant in Fife.
The oil and gas giant has submitted initial plans for an enclosed ground flare (EGF) at Fife Ethylene Plant (FEP).
It comes after the latest significant bout of flaring at the site last month resulted in more than 700 complaints to the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa).
Residents raised concerns about noise and vibrations, light pollution and sleepless nights.
ExxonMobil said the proposed EGF, which is in addition to a £140 million upgrade of the plant near Cowdenbeath, would “greatly reduce” the impact of flaring on communities.
However, Mossmorran Action Group (MAG) said the technology, aimed at minimising noise and emissions, should have been in place already.
James Glen, who chairs MAG, claimed ExxonMobil had been forced “kicking and screaming into action” by Sepa following huge volumes of complaints and pressure from a working group led by former Labour MP Lesley Laird.
“Anything that the Mossmorran operators do to reduce flaring or to mitigate the noise, light and air pollution it produces is welcome, but these measures should have been in place years ago,” said Mr Glen.
“Sepa has basically forced the operators, kicking and screaming, into action because of the huge number of complaints by residents and the pressure exerted by Lesley Laird’s working group.
“The plant is still breaking down too often and the health of residents continues to be affected. These are issues which need to be investigated as a matter of the utmost urgency.
“The beginning of a planning process for an extremely belated ground flare in no way lets ExxonMobil, Shell, Sepa and the Scottish Government off the hook.”
ExxonMobil has lodged a screening application to determine if an environmental impact assessment will be required.
The company said more details about the project would be revealed as the proposal progresses through the planning system.
An ExxonMobil spokesperson said: “In addition to the £140 million investment already announced for the plant, we are moving forward at pace with our multimillion pound project to safely install an EGF at Fife Ethylene Plant.
‘’The EGF represents the best available technology to greatly reduce the amenity impact that can sometimes be experienced with flaring.
“As part of the initial stages of the formal planning application, we are seeking Fife Council’s guidance on the right level of detail to allow them to assess the application.
‘’Over the coming months, we will be sharing much more about the benefits the EGF will bring to our host communities.’’