PLANS for a key upgrade at Mossmorran to "reduce the impact of flaring" have been approved by Fife Council.

ExxonMobil, the operators of the Fife Ethylene Plant, will add a flare tip to their elevated stack that will reduce noise and vibration when flaring is underway.

It's one of the measures that the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) – who this week announced they're taking legal action against the company – insisted on.

A report by the council explained: "SEPA is the environmental regulator for the Mossmorran complex and, following a series of unplanned flaring episodes in 2017 and 2018, final warning letters were sent by SEPA to both Shell and ExxonMobil regarding the number and duration of flaring events that had caused unacceptable environmental impacts.

"Subsequently, SEPA required the installation of a new flare tip on the elevated flare stack at ExxonMobil's Fife Ethylene Plant in order to reduce the impact of flaring at the site, principally in reducing the noise associated with flaring."

Last year, following widespread complaints from local communities about unplanned flaring incidents at the site, ExxonMobil announced they would spend £140 million over the next two years to improve the plant.

The plans included the state-of-the-art flare tip.

The council report said: "The proposed replacement flare tip is a very specific piece of technology that is required to be applied to the existing elevated flare stack so that the Mossmorran complex can continue operating safely and in accord with environmental regulation.

"Approval of the development would result in an upgrading of a key safety mechanism of the Mossmorran facility and would limit the adverse environmental impact currently experienced during elevated flaring episodes by reducing noise levels from those typically encountered at present."

Planning officers were unable to undertake a site visit, due to the COVID-19 restrictions, but said a risk assessment was carried out.

The Mossmorran complex contains a number of elevated flare stacks and ground flares that are a "vital part of the safety system and are used to burn off gas that cannot be processed safely due to the volumes involved or the gas being off specification".

The report added that the addition of the flare tip "would marginally increase the height" of the flare stack to just over 100 metres.