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. 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.
It is the largest refinery in the UK and one of the most complex in Europe. Its modern marine terminal handles around 2,000 ship movements and 22 million tonnes of crude oil and other products every year. The refinery processes some 300,000 barrels of crude oil a day and supplies around 14 per cent of all petroleum products in the UK.
The BP terminal on the River Hamble acts as an important hub for the transportation of oil and refined products. At Hamble, crude oil is delivered by pipeline and transported from there to the world’s refineries by seagoing tankers. 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.