SINGAPORE - Bright, distant flames have been spotted in the night sky in western Singapore over the last two days, raising concerns about whether there could have been a huge fire here.
However, they are a result of an industrial combustion process, known as flaring, on Jurong Island.
Oil and gas company ExxonMobil told The Straits Times on Friday (Nov 29) that flaring is ongoing at its chemical plant here due to maintenance works.
"Flaring is expected to continue. A flare is a safety device that burns excess hydrocarbon gases which cannot be processed, in this case due to maintenance work. The public is advised not to be alarmed," it said, adding that it tries to minimise flaring.
On Wednesday and Thursday, blazes and plumes of smoke were visible in the night sky in the western part of the island.
A video filmed by an ST reader shows two balls of fire burning brightly in the sky.
The reader, who declined to be named, said that she saw the flames on Wednesday night as well as at about 11pm the next night from her residential college in the National University of Singapore's University Town.
"There was some smoke and the flames were flickering. It looked like there was a fire on what appeared to be a crane."
Engineer Joseph Lim, 27, was nearby in Dover when he noticed bright, flickering red lights in the sky.
"There seemed to be clouds and white smoke rising slowly in the sky that got thicker over time. There were no explosive sounds or the smell of smoke from where I was."
The flames were also spotted farther away.
Undergraduate Clarice See, 22, said that she was about to go to bed when she saw the flames from her Ang Mo Kio flat at about 1am on Thursday.
"I was puzzled by the light. I thought it was fireworks but it was flickering non-stop, so I assumed it was a fire," said Ms See.
ST understands that the police were not alerted to the flames and that no firefighting assistance from the Singapore Civil Defence Force was required.
It is believed that the flaring process on Jurong Island which produced the flames is a part of normal combustion processes by companies there.
Regarding flaring, ExxonMobil's website states that flares are important safety devices used in refineries and petrochemical facilities.
"They safely burn excess hydrocarbon gases which cannot be recovered or recycled. Excess hydrocarbon gases are burnt in the flare systems in an environmentally sound manner, as an alternative to releasing the vapour directly into the atmosphere," the website says.
The process of burning these excess gases is similar to the burning of liquefied petroleum gases, which some people use as fuel for cooking, it adds.