THE Mossmorran plant "definitely looks less like Mordor" after Shell and ExxonMobil spent significant sums on improvements.

Episodes of flaring - the burning of excess gas - turned the sky a fiery orange and unplanned incidents in particular sparked alarm in the community to do with noise, vibrations, light pollution and poor air quality.

But councillors were told there's been a "massive" drop in the number of complaints about the complex, which is home to Shell's Fife NGL Plant and ExxonMobil's Fife Ethylene Plant.

Nigel Kerr, head of protective services at Fife Council, explained: "Where we are now, compared to 2019-20, significant investment has been made by both companies, there's ongoing regulation by Sepa and wide-reaching community engagement.

"This has culminated in less unplanned flaring, reduced impacts when this does occur and a vast reduction in complaints in the last few years.

"This has gone from around 1,500 to just over 40 complaints in 2022."

Dunfermline Press: Unplanned flaring over seven days in April 2019 sparked significant concerns in the local community. Councillors were told of the major progress made since those days. Unplanned flaring over seven days in April 2019 sparked significant concerns in the local community. Councillors were told of the major progress made since those days. (Image: David Wardle)

Cllr Jean Hall Muir said: "It definitely looks less like Mordor on a regular basis so that's an improvement.

"If these are such crucial facilities that obviously had significant investment, clearly generate an awful lot of money and are very important to the UK grid, the adjacent economic deprivation in the surrounding area should be noted.

"Along with increased communication, I think increased community investment is a question that could be asked of such a crucial hub for both Fife Council and the UK power grid."

The Mossmorran and Braefoot Bay 2022 General Report was discussed at a recent scrutiny committee.

Councillors were reminded of the "significant" seven days of unplanned flaring at FEP in April 2019, and further events in August 2019 and August 2020, and the widespread concern from the public and in the media about the operational safety of the plant and the health impacts on local communities.

This had led to a number of recommendations and Mr Kerr said progress had been made.

Back in 2019 there were 1,421 complaints to do with Mossmorran, rising to 1,671 in 2020 before plummeting to 132 and then 42 in 2021 and 2022.

He continued: "Both Shell and ExxonMobil have invested in new elevated flare tips which do reduce noise and vibration, while ExxonMobil have a new enclosed ground flare which went online in the summer of 2023.

"Shell are also progressing with installation of a new enclosed ground flare and that will be operational in 2025.

"These are complete game changers in terms of minimising impacts on communities during planned or unplanned flaring."

Cllr Darren Watt asked why they were only now discussing the 2022 report.

He added: "The massive reduction in the number of complaints is very much welcomed but I do take umbrage with their video where they refer to the local community and say 'They speak and we listen'.

"It wasn't so long ago that we had to shout and protest, we had to get Sepa involved and take it to the Scottish Government as there were unplanned flaring incidents throughout 2018 and 2019 and both firms were issued with final warnings."

Mr Kerr said the pandemic was to blame for the delays and the 2023 report should be available for scrutiny later this year.

Asked about the plant's future he added: "I know Shell and ExxonMobil are looking at what a just transition may look like. They are an important employer but there are many opportunities for sustainable energy production. Hydrogen is one element they'll probably be looking at."