ExxonMobil refinery has activated a safety procedure known as flaring following what is describing as “an interruption in operations”.
Hundred of People living near the chemical complex feared the worst along with many other across on the western shores of Southampton as a large orange flame from the flare stacks could be seen for miles as far as Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight.
Many called 999 reporting the Hampshire sky a blaze with burning orange in the Fawley and New Forest area as the flames bounced off the low cloud base.
ExxonMobil says: “At present we are flaring due to an interruption in operations.
“Flaring is a safe, controlled and environmentally-approved way of burning off excess gas which would normally be recycled and used in our operating processes.
We would apologise for any concern and inconvenience that the flaring may cause to our local residents and thank you for your patience and understanding.”
The flaring process is
“A flame burning at the top of one of the plant’s highest towers might look alarming, but in fact it is an important part of its operation,” it says.
“It is not uncommon for people to be concerned when they see smoke or flames coming from the tower, called the flare stack.
“However, the flare is a normal and vital part of keeping the plant running safely during unplanned operational interruptions or scheduled maintenance.
Hampshire fire and rescue service said that they became swamped with calls at one point and had to call on neighbouring Wiltshire and Dorest fire and rescue to take some emergency calls.