The Shell oil corporation is burning off large volumes of ethane because they can’t sell it to their regular customer, which is a plant on the same property owned by ExxonMobil. The location is officially known as “Mossmorran,” and is used by numerous oil and gas companies. Residents near the property where the ethane is burning are complaining of pollution, light, and noise coming from the site.
Residents were hoping that the burning would only be happening for a short amount of time, but the ExxonMobil plant won’t be operational again until at least November. The plant is currently under a construction process that will cost at least £140m and is expected to last through November. Until then, Shell intends to continue the fuel burnings, insisting that they have nowhere to store it and no choice but to burn it.
According to BBC, a Shell Fife Natural Gas Liquids spokesman said, “The (ExxonMobil) Fife Ethylene Plant is currently the primary customer for ethane supplied by the Shell Fife Natural Gas Liquids plant, and processes ethane into ethylene. Our ground flares are burning excess ethane as the Fife Ethylene plant is currently not available for receiving the ethane to process it into ethylene.
“We have taken measures within the North Sea (SEGAL) supply system to help to manage the situation and are actively exploring alternative ethane outlets during the temporary shutdown. However, the volume taken by the Fife Ethylene plant is significant and any solution is likely to be for some volume rather than the full volume of ethane the Fife Natural Gas Liquids plant produces,” the statement added.
The burns have been going on for months and making life horrible for the surrounding community. However, the site has been a point of frustration for locals and environmental activists for many years, because this sort of activity is unfortunately extremely common.
Residents have posted videos to social media, showing how the fires from the plant light up the sky at night.
— Danni JP Newlands (@ProctorDanni) April 21, 2019
The company insists that the fires are safe and heavily controlled, but the entire surrounding area is very concerned about their health and safety.
— claire graham (@cg19801) April 24, 2019
The fires can be seen and heard from miles away.
— annabel murphy (@AnnabelMurphy95) April 23, 2019
The Scottish Environment Protection Agency has received at least 1,400 complaints this year relating to the site, most of which are from local residents concerned about their health and well-being, according to BBC.
James Glen, chairman of the Mossmorran Action Group, said that his organization has received hundreds of reports from people concerned about their health.
“People are suffering breathing difficulties, headaches and sore eyes but they are also concerned about rare cancers rates as well as common cancers,” Glen said.
There are also many children with asthma in the area, who end up having increased difficulty breathing on days when the burns are stronger.
Things have gotten worse than ever at the site since Shell has begun burning such large volumes of ethane, but pollution, loud noises and flashes of light throughout the evening is common for the area. When the ExxonMobil plant is fixed, many of these problems will continue to persist, but likely won’t be as bad.
IMAGE CREDIT1: Flickr
IMAGE CREDIT: Richard Webb