Stanlow Refinery

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Stanlow Refinery
Manchester Ship Canal viewed from the air.jpg
Looking towards Runcorn, with Stanlow Refinery in the bottom right corner. The refinery sits alongside the Manchester Ship Canal and the River Mersey.
Stanlow Refinery is located in Cheshire
Stanlow Refinery
Location within Cheshire
CountryEngland, United Kingdom
ProvinceCheshire, North West England
Coordinates53°16′22″N 2°50′24″W / 53.27278°N 2.84000°W / 53.27278; -2.84000Coordinates: 53°16′22″N 2°50′24″W / 53.27278°N 2.84000°W / 53.27278; -2.84000
Refinery details
Owner(s)Essar Energy (2011-present)
Capacity296,000 bbl/d (47,100 m3/d)
No. of employees960[1]

Stanlow Refinery is an oil refinery owned by Essar Energy in Ellesmere Port, North West England.[2] Until 2011 it was owned by Royal Dutch Shell. The refinery is situated on the south bank of the Manchester Ship Canal, which is used to transport seaborne oil for refining and chemicals for Essar and Shell.[3]

Stanlow has a refining capacity of 12 million tonnes per year with a barrel per day capacity of 296,000.[4] Consequently, it is the second largest in the United Kingdom after Fawley Refinery,[5] and produces a sixth of the UK's petrol needs.[6] Stanlow is also a large producer for commodities such as jet fuel and diesel.[7]

Although situated in North West England, the refinery serves much of England as it is linked to the UK oil pipeline network. Oil is delivered to the Tranmere Oil Terminal via ship, then pumped to Stanlow for refining and stored for delivery.


Stanlow Refinery from ground level

The refinery occupies nearly 1,900 acres (7.7 km2) near the River Mersey and dates back to 1924, when a small bitumen plant was established.[8] Stanlow and Thornton railway station was opened in 1940 to give workers access to the site and the facility an extra mode of transport. However, this station is now only served by three trains daily towards each of Ellesmere Port (westbound) and Helsby (eastbound), with these services scheduled to depart at times which would be inconvenient for the workers.

In the 1970s, an oil pipeline was constructed from Amlwch, Anglesey to Stanlow. Crude oil was pumped ashore from tankers moored at deep-water pontoons. The pipeline closed in the early 1980s.[9]

Crude oil is now received lower down river on the Mersey at the Tranmere Oil Terminal, operated by the Mersey Docks and Harbour Company from its Liverpool headquarters, and is transferred via a fifteen-mile (24 km) pipeline to storage at Stanlow. Output is delivered via various means, including by pipeline via the UK oil pipeline network, road and the Manchester Ship Canal. There is also a pipeline for jet fuel to Manchester Airport.

In 2010, Royal Dutch Shell declared their desire to sell off some refineries in Europe to concentrate on emerging markets in Asia and the Middle East, which led to the possibility that Stanlow would be shut down indefinitely.[10] However, Shell said that a number of refineries in their portfolio offered over-capacity and consequently Stanlow, their last British refinery, was put up for sale.[11]

After a prolonged period of negotiation, Stanlow was sold by Shell to Essar Energy for approximately $1.3 billion (£814 million) in 2011.[1] Essar has stated their desire to expand the site with a 25% increase in output.[12] Following the bankruptcy of Petroplus which ran the Coryton Refinery in January 2012, Essar stated their belief that Stanlow, being a large refinery, would be able to compete with refineries in Asia and the Middle East.[13] Essar plan a £250 million expansion of Stanlow, with production of diesel and aviation fuel to be increased.[14]


Stanlow's position as one of the largest and well-known refineries in the country, has led to numerous protests over a number of decades. In the UK fuel crisis of 2000, protests over government taxation on fuel began at Stanlow.[15][16] A large fuel price protest was staged in May 2011 with the objective of "shutting down" the refinery.[17]


Manchester Ship Canal from Ellesmere Port Dock towards Stanlow Refinery
  • Storage capacity: 2 million tonnes of crude oil and products [8]
  • Refining capacity: 12 million tonnes per year. The manufacturing complex employs 800 people.
  • Barrel per day output: 272,000 bbl/d (43,200 m3/d)[18]
  • Product output
    • petrol 3 million tonnes
    • diesel 3.5 million tonnes
    • kerosene/jet fuel 2 million tonnes
    • LPG & petrochemical feedstocks 1.5 million tonnes
    • Fuel oil 1 million tonnes

Cultural references[edit]

In 1980, the British synthpop band Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark featured a song about the refinery called "Stanlow" on their second album, Organisation. The band Jesu's 2007 album Conqueror features a track titled "Stanlow" that concerns itself with the refinery.


  1. ^ a b "Royal Dutch Shell to sell Stanlow refinery for $1.3bn". BBC News. 29 March 2011. Retrieved 2012-03-30.
  2. ^
  3. ^ "Manchester Ship Canal". Peel Ports. Retrieved 2012-01-25.
  4. ^ "Raring to grow". Essar Energy. 20 August 2011. Retrieved 2012-03-30. Located near Ellesmere Port in north west England, the Stanlow refinery is the second largest in the UK. With has a nameplate capacity of 296,000 barrels of oil a day , it is responsible for about one sixth of the UK’s petrol supply.
  5. ^ "The £100 fill-up looms for motorists as one of the UK's biggest refineries goes bankrupt". Daily Mail. 24 January 2012. Retrieved 2012-01-25.
  6. ^ "Stanlow Manufacturing Complex". Shell. Archived from the original on 2011-08-13. Retrieved 2012-01-25.
  7. ^ "Stanlow refinery sold for £219m". Manchester Evening News. 18 February 2011. Retrieved 2012-01-26.
  8. ^ a b Interactive Guide to UK Refineries: Stanlow (Shell),, retrieved 28 August 2007
  9. ^ Sallery,, Dave, The Associated Octel Company and the Amlwch branch, retrieved 1 August 2008
  10. ^ "Future of oil refinery in doubt as Shell considers sale of Stanlow". The Guardian. 10 August 2009. Retrieved 2012-03-31.
  11. ^ Macalister, Terry (4 February 2010). "Shell to axe another 1,000 jobs and sell last UK refinery". The Guardian. Retrieved 2012-03-30.
  12. ^ Barrett, Jayne (30 March 2011). "New Stanlow refinery boss promises expansion". BBC News. Retrieved 2012-01-26.
  13. ^ Milmo, Dan (27 February 2012). "Oil refineries likely to close across UK and Europe, Essar Energy boss warns". The Guardian. Retrieved 2012-03-30.
  14. ^ Hodgson, Neil (7 November 2011). "Essar Energy says Stanlow oil refinery integration in line with expectations". Liverpool Daily Post. Retrieved 2012-04-01.
  15. ^ "Refinery hit by fuel protesters". BBC News. 8 September 2000. Retrieved 2012-04-01.
  16. ^ "Fuel protest at oil refinery". Manchester Evening News. 2 May 2008. Retrieved 2012-04-01.
  17. ^ "Fuel protesters' Ellesmere Port oil blockade bid". BBC News. 8 May 2011. Retrieved 2012-04-01.
  18. ^ "Shell receives offer for Stanlow refinery in the UK". Shell UK. 18 February 2011. Retrieved 2012-01-26.

Further reading[edit]

  • Shannon, Paul (11–24 March 1998). "End of an era for Stanlow oil". RAIL. No. 326. EMAP Apex Publications. pp. 32–36. ISSN 0953-4563. OCLC 49953699.

External links[edit]