Essar Oil (UK), which operates Stanlow Oil Refinery in Ellesmere Port, has been fined nearly £500,000 for breaches of environmental regulations.

The company was sentenced at Chester Crown Court following a prosecution brought by the Environment Agency. It was fined £497,284 and ordered to pay costs of £40,000 in relation to two incidents which occurred in 2012.

On 31 July 2012 the roof of an oil storage tank failed under pressure at the refinery. This caused a plume of steam and oil to be released into the atmosphere and fine droplets of oil were reported over an area approximately 5.3 kilomentre in length and 0.8 kilometre in width. At its furthest point, gravestones were affected at Overpool Cemetery, together with local businesses and vehicles which required cleaning. The incident resulted in a large number of complaints and the company incurred significant clean-up costs.

In a separate incident on 19 August 2012 approximately 5 tonnes of oil entered the Manchester Ship Canal following failures in the operation of Essar’s effluent management system. As a result of the incident, the Manchester Ship Canal was closed for two days to all shipping traffic while an extensive clean-up operation was carried out.

HHJ Shetty, the sentencing Judge, said: “In my judgement this fine will achieve the statutory purpose. The penalty is not only proportionate and just, but will bring home to the management and shareholders the need to protect the environment.”

Nigel Glasgow for the Environment Agency said: “These pollution incidents were significant events resulting in large numbers of complaints and clean-up costs for Essar. Permit breaches of this nature are taken seriously by regulators and the courts. Since these incidents the Environment Agency has worked closely with Essar, which has improved its environmental performance and we look forward to its continued co-operation.”