Fawley oil refinery was first established in 1921 by the Atlantic Gulf and West Indies Company. The site was chosen for the development land available, the low population, and access to the Solent's waterside, it covers more than a thousand hectares. This location also provided the large amount of water necessary for use 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; at the outset much of the plant's output was used to supply liners using Southampton docks.
The refinery is now owned by Esso, which acquired the site in 1925. It was rebuilt and extended in 1951 and is now the largest oil refinery in the United Kingdom. The site also houses a chemical facility operated by Exxon Mobil.
The ExxonMobil Refinery at Fawley is the largest in the UK it processes around 270,000 barrels of crude oil a day and provides 20 per cent of UK refinery capacity. Over 2,000 ship movements are handled by Fawley refinery every year. The 1.5km marine terminal has nine berths, which handle the movement of the ships and 22mt of chemicals and crude oil per annum. A pipeline runs under Southampton Water from the Fawley oil refinery to supply the BP fuel terminal at Hamble.
Esso is to build a hydrogen-generating plant, an automotive diesel oil production facility and diesel storage tank at Fawley, the company says expanding production would help reduce diesel imports and create 1,000 construction jobs.
The fuel terminal was opened in 1924 and in 1944 was used to supply PLUTO, a WW2 undersea fuel pipeline from Sandown to Cherbourg that aided the Normandy invasion. Each day, 25,000 barrels of crude oil is pumped here under Southampton Water by pipeline from BP's Wytch Farm onshore oil field in Dorset - a distance of 91km. It is stored in tanks, each with a capacity of 22,000 tonnes before being exported by ship approximately every 10 days.
The BP terminal also acts as an important hub for the transportation of oil and refined products. Refined products reach the terminal by ship and pipeline and are then distributed to customers by road tanker, ship and pipeline. In between arrival at the terminal and subsequent distribution, both crude oil and refined products are stored in a series of large tanks; five tanks are devoted to crude oil and 25 to the range of refined products.