ExxonMobil has revealed it is considering significant upgrades at its Esso Fawley refinery near Southampton, to help meet demand in the UK market for high quality fuels.

It said the project would involve an investment of hundreds of millions of pounds, and would reduce the need for diesel imports to the UK. It would enable the site to process a wider selection of crude oils, and help secure future employment for 1,000 employees at the site.

The proposed project would include a new hydrotreater unit, which would be supported by a new hydrogen plant.

The final investment decision will be based on a number of factors, including regulatory approvals, market conditions and economic competitiveness. A final investment decision is not expected until the second quarter of 2019.

ExxonMobil is in the process of filing all appropriate permits and planning applications.

Simon Downing, Fawley Refinery manager, said: “If this project is approved, it would be a major investment in the site amounting to hundreds of millions of pounds, and a bold statement of confidence in Fawley and its ability to produce high quality fuels for the UK economy.

“This is an exciting time for everyone at Fawley. I congratulate the project team for all their hard work in getting us to this point. We hope to make our final investment decision in the first half of 2019.”

ExxonMobil said the refinery at Fawley is the largest in the UK, providing 20% of UK refinery capacity and approximately one in six cars in the UK operates on fuel produced there.