Huge flares from the Essar oil refinery at Stanlow lit up the sky for miles around on Thursday night (February 16).

The orange flames pulsed in the night leading to a lot of concern from the public.

It turned out to be routine maintenance at the plant but still made for an incredibly dramatic sight.

Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service were quick to confirm there was 'no incident'.

Crews from Ellesmere Port Fire Station were dispatched to the site about 7.20pm but it was a false alarm.

Video thumbnail, Flaring stack at Stanlow refinery
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Dramatic flaring stack at Stanlow refinery

Stanlow's operators Essar did say the flaring was 'heavier than normal'.

Spokesman Ian Cotton said yesterday: "Plant maintenance was being undertaken at Stanlow today and this has caused heavier flaring than normal.

"The flaring is part of the routine safety system at the refinery and is expected to reduce over the next few hours."

The last time the refinery had flared so vividly was January last year.

So why do they do it?

Flares are important safety devices allowing refineries to get rid of excess gas which cannot be recycled.

Instead of harmful hydrocarbons like methane being released into the atmosphere they are burnt off in a controlled manner at the top of the stack.

The gases are combined with steam to ensure maximum efficiency.

It is done high above the ground as the process generates a huge amount of heat which could affect surrounding equipment.

The Essar website states: "At Essar Oil UK we are committed to improving processes and technology and aim to reduce the amount of flaring through improved recovery and reprocessing of excess materials."

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