THE news of the £140m investment by Exxon/Mobil in the Fife Ethylene Plant over the next couple of years should finally consign aerial flaring to the history books.

The last couple of years have seen a lot of episodes of unplanned flaring at the plant which have lasted for a lot longer than has been comfortable for the communities surrounding the Mossmorran complex.

Of course flaring is also a commodity which is bad news for the operators of the plant for each minute of flaring costs considerable amounts of money, as the manager of the day told Cowdenbeath Area Committee three years ago.

It will be a phased solution though, as when the plant re-starts after the repairs are completed to its boilers to produce steam for the production process and keeping the flare flame clean, there will have to be periods of flaring as production gets back up to speed.

The special tip for the flare stack will be fitted early in the new year and that will reduce the noise levels caused by flaring which have been a source of strong source of complaint in recent years.

But ultimately the mechanism which will consign the flare stack to the history books will be the development of ground flare pits which will be used when necessary to burn off surplus gas.

Shell currently have a ground flare facility, but the FEP will need a much more extensive ground flare system to cater for the needs of the plant.

That, it would seem, will be developed during 2020 and when operational it will mean that the people of the Cowdenbeath-Lochgelly area will be largely unaware when flaring is taking place.

Plant boss Jacob McAlister has made it plain that he wants the Fife Ethylene Plant to be a much better neighbour and with the Exxon/Mobil investment plan that seems certain to happen, but it will take time, and there will be some days coming up when it will seem like little has changed.

However, over the next 18 months there will indeed be huge improvements.