A £140 MILLION plan has been announced to improve a chemical plant at the centre of “flaring” concerns among residents and environmentalists.

ExxonMobil said the work, which will reduce flaring and improve infrastructure at the Mossmorran ethylene plant in Fife, will be carried out over the next two years, adding that it will support around 850 local construction jobs and benefit 40 local suppliers.

Environmental watchdog the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) launched a formal investigation into unplanned flaring at the plant in April, following hundreds of complaints from local residents about a chemical smell and rumbling noise.

The plant has been shut since mid-August for maintenance work on two of its three boilers and is expected to reopen towards the end of the year.

Last month, Sepa varied the operating permits for ExxonMobil Chemical Limited and Shell UK Limited, which shares the site, requiring them both to address the impacts of flaring and install noise-reducing flare tips.

ExxonMobil said some of the £140m investment will go toward technologies that reduce the impact of flaring, including a state-of-the-art flare tip, which will reduce noise and vibration. It also plans to upgrade key infrastructure and introduce new technologies that will “significantly improve operational reliability and performance”.

Plant manager Jacob McAlister said: “These planned investments demonstrate our commitment to long-term reliable operations at the site. While already one of the most modern plants of its kind in Europe, we are always looking for ways to improve reliability and efficiency through continued maintenance and investment in new technologies.

“We are committed to the highest operational and regulatory standards. This investment further contributes to the local economy and across Scotland through job creation and procurement contracts.”

Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse said: “Given community concerns, the Scottish Government has been clear the frequency of unplanned flaring at the site is unacceptable. This significant investment to improve the reliability and sustainability of the site is positive news.

Sepa chief compliance officer Ian Buchanan said: “Sepa has been clear that repeated unplanned flaring by ExxonMobil was both unacceptable and preventable and that in future flaring will be the exception rather than routine.”