I'm writing Ansible playbooks to provision an Ubuntu 18.04 server.

I want to provision the server for a Rails application using Passenger and Nginx. I used geerlingguy.passenger from Ansible Galaxy to configure Passenger and Nginx.

In addition, I used zzet.rbenv to install ruby 2.5.3.

The Ansible playbooks seem to have executed correctly, and when I log into the server via SSH, everything seems to be working (rbenv is on the path, RAILS_MASTER_KEY environment variable is defined).

Deployment of my application via Capistrano also appears to run successfully.

However, when I attempt to visit the landing page, I get a Passenger error: "Web application could not be started by the Phusion Passenger application server."

Looking in /var/log/nginx/error.log, I see:

Missing encryption key to decrypt file with. Ask your team for your master key and write it to /var/www/releases/20191230212823/config/master.key or put it in the ENV['RAILS_MASTER_KEY'].

I'm not sure why the above error is happening, because I've already configured a persistent environment variable using the weareinteractive.environment role.

Inspecting /etc/environment confirms that RAILS_MASTER_KEY is defined, and I can see if it I log in manually as my 'deploy' user. However, /etc/nginx/nginx.conf shows that the default user is www-data:

user www-data;

I think this should be fine, because the environment variables are configured in a way that is not associated with a user account. So, why does Rails fail to see this environment variable even though I see it when I log in via SSH?

I'm able to execute the following command on the server and see the contents of the encrypted credentials file:

RAILS_ENV=production EDITOR=vim bundle exec rails credentials:edit

So what is going wrong when Nginx/Passenger launch Rails?

Edit: It seems like Passenger/Nginx do not load environment variables from /etc/environment, which mostly explains my problem. I'm trying to figure out the appropriate way to configure environment variables for Passenger using Ansible now.

1 Answer 1


Root cause: environment variables from /etc/environment are not passed to Passenger. The standard method seems to be passenger_env_var in your nginx config as suggested by user joshaidan.

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