Unplanned flaring from the Exxon Mobil Fife Ethylene Plant at Mossmorran, which has seen flames and thick plumes of black smoke belching from the site, is set to continue "for a few days". 

Residents have complained of light pollution and a 'roaring' sound since Sunday, when the company said there was "an interruption to the operation on one of our steam generating boilers".  

The loss of steam resulted in the black smoke which has now been resolved.  

Exxon Mobil apologised and said that a small section of cable had been replaced, with staff working through the night to try and address the problems, but it's not over yet for residents living nearby. 

Stuart Neill, external affairs manager for the Exxon Mobil Fife Ethylene Plant, said: “We absolutely understand the disruption that the current unplanned flaring is having on communities in the area.

“Our team are working round the clock to bring the plant back to normal operations, a process which will take a few days to safely complete. During this time we will, regrettably, need to continue to flare.

“The unplanned flaring was caused by a fault in a section of cable that resulted in the plant being moved to fail-safe mode as per established operational procedure.

“Flaring is an established industry practice, essentially producing water and CO2 from the combustion of Ethylene and steam.

“We are doing everything possible to minimise both the flaring and the timescales to resolve this unplanned event.”

Exxon Mobil and neighbours Shell UK were both issued final warning letters last April over unplanned flaring – the burning of excess or waste gas - at their sites, the Fife Ethylene Plant (FEP) and the Fife Natural Gas Liquids (NGL) Plant respectively. 

Residents were affected badly by noise, vibration and black smoke over seven days in June 2017, NHS Fife raised health concerns after locals complained of breathing difficulties, irritated eyes and disturbed sleep, while there were also unplanned flaring events in October 2017, as well as March and May 2018.

Sepa carried out an investigation and their report in February said the “flaring in June 2017 was preventable and unacceptable" but also that the "robust enforcement action taken is currently appropriate and effective". 

Between 2008 and 2016, there were 670 flaring incidents at the FEP and 753 at the NGL site.

Mid Scotland and Fife Tory MSP, Alexander Stewart, said: “I recently met with Exxon Mobil’s management team at Mossmorran along with my colleague, Councillor Darren Watt. We were both assured the health, safety and well-being of neighbouring residents is their highest priority, however, following yet another apparent process upset, I will be seeking further assurances that the plant is being properly maintained and ultimately, still fit for purpose.

"Furthermore, I am reassured SEPA has been carrying out a number of tests over the last couple of days but I will however be asking for more details from them about what exactly the tests entail and how relevant they are to the disruption and concerns local communities are dealing with.”

Cllr Watt, Scottish Conservative councillor for Cowdenbeath, said: “I am very saddened to be dealing with unplanned flaring yet again especially as it appeared we had turned a significant corner.

"Although communication from the plant has improved, it is clear they are failing to provide any meaningful assurances to the public. There are many worried people out there and they are becoming increasingly frustrated and angry the longer this continues.

“I also share their concerns, and not just in the short-term but in the longer term too.

"This unplanned flaring may only last several days but the effects to the local economy and the environment could last much, much longer.

"We are desperately trying to attract visitors to Cowdenbeath and the surrounding villages but this will become increasingly difficult with continuous negative events like this on our doorstep.”