Operations at Fife’s controversial Mossmorran plant have been shut down to allow for repairs to two broken boilers.
As intense flaring and a deep rumbling noise continued at the petrochemicals building near Cowdenbeath, the flow of gas to the site from the North Sea was reduced to ensure furnaces could be shut down safely.
Plant manager Jacob McAlister said the steps would start the gradual reduction of the flare.
“We have now started the process of safely shutting down our operation to execute maintenance on our boilers,” he said.
“We have made the necessary arrangements to reduce the flow of gas coming from the North Sea, allowing us to begin the key step of taking our furnaces out of operation.”
The assurance has cut no ice with those living near the site however, with many joining the growing number of calls for a full independent inquiry into ExxonMobil’s operations there.
Joe Purves, from Lochgelly, lives a stone’s throw from the plant and said that at its worst the noise was unbearable.
“It can only be described as being similar to when a helicopter is in the vicinity,” he said.
“The last couple of times it happened we experienced noises like a jet airline taking off.
“Monday night was a sleep deprivation night.”
The 69-year-old retired accountant and his wife Margaret, who have lived in McKenzie Crescent since before Fife Ethylene Plant existed at Mossmorran, added: “If you put your hand on the walls you can feel the vibration going through them.
“We can’t sit outside when it’s flaring because of the noise and, even inside with the windows closed, we can’t hear our television.”
The Scottish Government has said it will not decide on an appropriate course of action until the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) has finished its investigation into a prolonged bout of flaring earlier this year.
Mr Purves said that was not good enough.
“We’re in the position now where Sepa are always going to be carrying out some kind of review,” he said.
“I think the Scottish Government should get on with the independent inquiry that Fife Council has asked them to do.”
Cowdenbeath SNP MSP Annabelle Ewing spent much of Wednesday morning in discussion with Sepa about the situation, prompted by the failure of two of the plant’s three boilers on Monday.
“I took the opportunity to express, on behalf of my constituents, their extreme frustration with the situation as we see yet another unplanned flaring incident,” she said.
“I want to ensure that disruption to my constituents is properly addressed and I urged Sepa, once again, to use the powers of enforcement it has at its disposal.”
Sepa said it was monitoring air quality and would monitor noise in the evenings.
The body added that initial air quality monitoring showed no cause for concern.