|Capacity||270,000 bbl/d (43,000 m3/d)|
|No. of employees||2300|
|No. of oil tanks||330|
Fawley Refinery is an oil refinery located at Fawley, Hampshire, England. The refinery is owned by Esso, which acquired the site in 1925. Situated on Southampton Water, it was rebuilt and extended in 1951 and is now the largest oil refinery in the United Kingdom, and one of the most complex refineries in Europe. With a capacity of 270,000 barrels a day, Fawley provides 20 percent of UK refinery capacity. An estimated 2,300 people are employed at the site.
The refinery was established in 1921 by the Atlantic, Gulf and West Indies Oil Company on 270 hectares of land. The site was chosen because a large amount of land was available for development, and the area was not heavily populated, and because of the position on Southampton Water. This provided access to the large amount of water used in the refining process, and also made it possible for crude oil to be brought to the site in ocean tankers by sea. Proximity to Southampton was also a factor, as at the outset much of the plant's output was used to supply liners using Southampton Docks. Atlantic, Gulf and West Indies were bought out by British-Mexican Petroleum in 1923, and they, in turn, were taken over by the Anglo-American Oil Company in 1926, which was the British affiliate of Esso. In 1939 capacity was around 600,000 tonnes of crude oil per annum (approximately 12,000 barrels per day) which met just 6.7% of UK demand. Refining ceased during World War II, when most refined oil for the UK was imported, and Fawley was used as a storage depot.
In 1949 Esso embarked on the construction of a new refinery, and a further 1200 hectares of land were acquired. The first stage of this expansion, which came on-stream in 1951, consisted of primary distillation units, a catalytic cracker and numerous treating units. The refinery was opened by British prime minister Clement Attlee on 14 September 1951. It had an initial estimated capacity of 157,000 barrels per day, or around one third of UK demand at that time. The chemical plant was created in 1958. Additional refining capacity was added, and Fawley's capacity reached around 19,500,000 tonnes of crude oil per annum in 1973 (approximately 400,000 barrels per day), and has since decreased, partly because of reduced demand for oil.
Fawley refinery processes around 270,000 barrels of crude oil a day and provides 20 per cent of UK refinery capacity. Crude oil is transported by sea in tankers to the refinery's mile-long marine terminal, which handles around 2,000 ship movements and 22 million tonnes of crude oil and other products every year. The crude oil is pumped into storage tanks before being processed.
The crude oil is distilled into different fractions, with other complex processes being performed to produce a full range of products, that includes propane and butane (LPG), petrol, jet fuel, diesel, marine fuels, heating oil, lubricant basestocks and fuel oil. Major process units include 3 atmospheric and 3 vacuum distillation units (although one atmospheric and one vacuum distillation unit was shut down in 2012), a fluid catalytic cracking unit, a resid finer, a polymerization plant, 2 powerformers, 6 hydrofiners (a new one was brought online in 2013), 2 sulphur extraction units, a lubricating oil manufacturing complex, an isomerization unit and a bitumen plant (which was shut down in 2009). In addition to this, the refinery is also home to the largest refrigerated LPG storage facility in Northern Europe.
The ExxonMobil chemical plant produces approximately 750,000 tonnes of chemical products every year. The initial stage for many of the chemical products was the steam cracker (shut and dismantled in 2013), which took a feedstock of heavy naphtha or gas oil from the refinery to produce basic chemical building blocks: ethylene, propene and butene. This plant is now demolished, with Ethylene shipped directly in from a supplier; the propene and butene streams from the petroleum side of the refinery are used as feedstocks, mainly for the higher olefins plant and the isobutylene plant. Butene is stored in seven large pressurised spheres - known as the seven sisters - that are a prominent feature of the Fawley site.
The higher olefins plant is the largest chemical plant at Fawley. The 14 higher olefins manufactured at Fawley are shipped to other chemical plants in Europe for further processing. They are used in the manufacture of plasticizers - the component in plastics which makes them flexible - and also in the manufacture of performance fluids.
- Halobutyl rubber is the one polymer product made at Fawley. It is used to line tyres. The isobutylene feedstock for the polymers plant comes from the isobutylene plant. The solid halobutyl rubber is formed into bales and packed into crates in which it is shipped to customers around the world. The majority of tyres manufactured in Europe contain some Fawley halobutyl rubber.
- MEK (methyl ethyl ketone) is a solvent used in paints and adhesives. Residue from the isobutylene plant is used in the manufacture of MEK.
Fawley refinery has been the scene of a number of fires and explosions.
In July 2007, the BBC reported a fire in the steam generating plant of the refinery with no casualties. It caused a major part of the refinery to be shut down for a few days.
In 2008 a sailor from Honduras died after a fuel pipe fell from a refinery jib due to a corroded connecting bolt. The pipe collapsed on to the deck of the oil tanker MT Castillo de Monterreal. Esso and Austin & McLean were charged with breaching the Health and Safety Act for the accident, and were fined £100,000.
- Fawley refinery, ExxonMobil, retrieved 20 December 2012
- Kenneth Hudson, (1984), Industrial History from the Air, pages 56-7. CUP
- Fawley Refinery and Petrochemical Plant, Hampshire, United Kingdom, chemicals-technology.com, retrieved 17 January 2013
- Interactive Guide to UK Refineries: Fawley (Esso), energyinst.org.uk, 3 May 2010
- BBC ON THIS DAY | 14 | 1951: Refinery opens as oil row continues, BBC, retrieved 8 October 2014
- Oil and gas international year book, (1974), page 276
- Crude oil supplies, ExxonMobil, retrieved 20 December 2012
- Refinery operations, ExxonMobil, retrieved 20 December 2012
- Fawley chemical manufacturing plant, ExxonMobil, retrieved 20 December 2012
- Products, ExxonMobil, retrieved 20 December 2012
- Hansford, Roger. Fawleys frontline: A century of firefighting and rescue (1 ed.).
- "Big Oil Tank Blaze At Fawley". British Pathe. Retrieved 6 December 2015.
- "Video of Fawley fire". Retrieved 6 December 2015.
- "Fire at UK's largest oil refinery". British Broadcasting Corporation. BBC News. 25 July 2007. Retrieved 6 December 2015.
- Beaches still closed after Esso oil spill in Hampshire, BBC News, 22 June 2010, retrieved 20 December 2012
- Esso Fawley fined for Southampton Water toxic oil leak, BBC News, 21 September 2011, retrieved 20 December 2012
- "Esso and its contractor charged over Fawley refinery death". The Independent. 20 July 2012. Retrieved 6 December 2015.
- Seaman dies in refinery incident , BBC News, 30 August 2008, retrieved 20 December 2012
- Esso and Austin & McLean charged over sailor's death, BBC News, 20 July 2012, retrieved 20 December 2012
- Esso fined £100,000 over Fawley sailor death, BBC News, 17 December 2013, retrieved 8 October 2014
- Esso Fawley oil refinery death worker named, BBC News, 24 July 2011, retrieved 20 December 2012
- Crushed Esso oil refinery worker's death accidental, BBC News, 18 September 2012, retrieved 20 December 2012
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