Residents in Aberdeenshire have been told to expect flaring from the St Fergus gas terminal later this week.
In a letter to the local community, Steve Morrice, Shell’s plant manager at the facility, said there is a need to remove gas and liquids from the pipework ahead of work being carried out.
Flaring is expected to start on Thursday, June 10 and run for about four days.
It could result in “intermittent noise” and smoke emanating from St Fergus, which handles about 20% of the UK’s gas supply.
Phase two of Shell’s upgrade project at the facility, which receives gas through the SEGAL pipeline system, is due to get underway on Thursday.
As a result, St Fergus, near Peterhead, will be shut down for a “few weeks” in coordination with the North Sea pipeline.
The upgrade, expected to involve about 25,000 hours of work, is due to be completed at the beginning of July.
In his letter, Mr Morrice said: “A cycle of major investment comes around periodically that requires us to shut down processing at the plant for a few weeks in coordination with the pipeline system from the North Sea.
“The system down time is essential so that we, as well as other operators, can complete detailed inspections and significant upgrades as we invest in maintaining the integrity of our plant and the system infrastructure.
“Phase Two of our upgrade project requires use of the plant elevated flare for approximately four days beginning on Thursday 10th June. This is in order to remove gas and liquids from the pipework and make it safe to work on.
“Unfortunately, during this process, the flare will be smoky, and there may be some intermittent noise associated with this work. Please be reassured that we will take measures to minimise the impact, and there is no risk to the local community.”
He added: “We plan to complete this upgrade project, approximately 25,500 hours of work, in early July. We’re continuing to work within the Scottish Government guidelines for COVID-19, and we have embedded a wide range of measures and mitigations to help keep workers at the site safe and healthy. We are keeping the regulator SEPA informed of our plans.”
As well as being a key gas processing hub, St Fergus is also home to the trailblazing Acorn carbon capture and storage project.
The scheme is being led by Pale Blue Dot, a subsidiary of Storegga, with involvement from Shell and Harbour Energy, both of which are equal partners.
Acorn is exploring using established oil and gas pipelines to pump carbon into disused reservoirs under the North Sea, where it can be safely and securely stored.
A Shell employee was recently left needing hospital treatment after an incident at St Fergus.