Strategic supply from Britain’s largest refinery

Refining activity at Fawley dates back to the early 1920s when a small facility of around 12,000 barrels per day (bpd) with 600,000 metric tonnes (mt) annual distillation capacity was commissioned. The facility supplied just under 7% of the country’s then oil product requirements
A new refinery was commissioned by Esso in 1951 with a capacity of 110,000 bpd (5.5m mt/year). Subsequent additions took the total up to 330,000bpd (6m mt/year).  In 2012 Esso undertook a reconfiguration of the plant, closing one of its three crude distillation units, resulting in a reduced total distillation capacity of 275,000 bpd.
Supplying 15% of the country’s requirements
As Britain’s largest refinery, Fawley now accounts for 18% of the country’s total refining capacity and supplies about 15% of oil product requirements.
The refinery’s fluid catalytic cracking unit has a capacity of 75,000 bpd, with substantial catalytic reforming capacity of around 95,000 bpd.  Prior to the recent reduction in crude distillation capacity, its Nelson Complexity was reported to be 9.1. A figure of approximately 11.5 has been reported to be more representative of the current configuration, making this a high complexity refinery.
Fawley’s mile-long marine jetty – the largest independently-owned jetty facility in Europe –  comprises 9 berths and handles around 2,200 ship movements and 22m mt of crude oil, oil products and chemicals per year.  The facility can accommodate coasters or part laden tankers of up to 350,000 (deadweight) DWT. The refinery complex is supported by 330 storage tanks.
A chemicals plant is integrated with the refinery from which it receives feed stocks.  The plant manufactures a range of products for the plastics, synthetic rubber and solvents industries, along with base oils, speciality chemicals and additives, with about 90% of its output exported.
A CHP plant was constructed in 2000 to service the refinery complex, with generating capability of 130 megawatts of electricity and 150 of heat.
Product movements
Fawley is first and foremost an inland refinery. Its supporting logistics infrastructure is configured to supply the lion’s share of its output to inland distribution terminals through its own 450-mile pipeline network.
This network takes up to 85% of Fawley’s total output, supplying over 30 million litres per day into the UK’s inland market. Around 10% of product is transported by coaster with 5% despatched by road from the Hythe road loading facility.

Last year’s Purvin & Gertz report highlighted the key part played by the Fawley oil refinery
Last year’s Purvin & Gertz report highlighted the key part played by the Fawley oil refinery

The pipeline network

  • Fawley to Avonmouth
  • Fawley to West London which also feeds the company’s substantial presence at Heathrow; an extension eastwards to the company’s Purfleet terminal was built in the 1980s. A short spur feeds Esso’s aviation fuel requirements at Gatwick.
  • Fawley to Seisdon, near Birmingham, also built in the 1980s, a spur feeds Birmingham airport.

Following the disablement of the Buncefield facility in December 2005, substantial additional demand was placed on the Fawley to West London system to help cover the shortfall in Jet A-1 deliveries into Heathrow.

Playing a pivotol role

Published in May 2013, the Purvin & Gertz report – The role and future of the UK refining sector in the supply of petroleum products and its value to the UK economy – highlighted the key part played by the Fawley oil refinery; Fawley being an indigenous supply source into the south regional envelope where, following Coryton’s closure, the report deemed the supply position to be neither robust nor resilient. 
As a result of its pipeline connections, however, the refinery’s supply reach goes well beyond the south.  Fawley also serves Bristol, Avonmouth, South Wales, the South West hinterlands, the Midlands and above all, it is the largest single supply source to both Heathrow and Gatwick airports.
This refinery is an essential strategic facility for the supply of transportation fuels to  major markets not only in the south and south east but also to Bristol, Avonmouth and the Midlands. It also plays a critical role in ensuring that there is an adequate and uninterrupted supply of fuel for aircraft at the country’s two largest airports.

Fawley – product yield
Petrol – 28%
Diesel – 29%
Jet A-1 – 11%
Fuel oils – 11%
Petrochemical feed stocks – 9%
LPG – 3%
Lube base oils – 3%
Bitumen – 1%
Other products – 5%
Source: UKPIA