Grangemouth Oil Refinery

Grangemouth Refinery
©2022 Gazetteer for Scotland

Grangemouth Refinery

One of the oldest oil refineries and petrochemicals complexes in Europe, Grangemouth was commissioned by Scottish Oils in 1924 to process crude oil from the Persian Gulf. Located on the southern shore of the Firth of Forth, 20 miles (32 km) west northwest of Edinburgh, the 700-ha (1730-acre) site now comprises a number of different businesses. Formed as a merger of several shale-oil producers, Scottish Oils was a subsidiary of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, which eventually became British Petroleum (BP). The major part of the refinery is now owned and operated by INEOS, on land in-part rented from Forth Ports Plc. INEOS is a privately-held British-based multi-national chemicals company which bought the installation from BP in 2005.

The refinery was first developed on land reclaimed from the River Forth next to Grangemouth Harbour and handled about 400,000 tonnes of oil annually. From 1949, it was redeveloped and extended inland onto land that formed the short-lived Central Scotland Airport, which became RAF Grangemouth during the Second World War. Its refining capacity rose in stages to 4.5 million tonnes. Further expansion took place in the early 1970s, bringing capacity to 8.6 million tonnes per annum. The first hydrocracker to be built in the UK was installed here, converting less desirable heavy hydrocarbons into more valuable automotive fuels. An alkylation unit was added in 1981, to produce petrol from lighter gaseous fractions. A low-sulphur diesel plant became operational in 1996. The refinery now has a capacity exceeding 10 million tonnes per annum, with more than 9 million litres (2 million gallons) of fuel produced daily.

Grangemouth is the only refinery in Scotland which produces fuel for vehicles, domestic heating and aviation, represented by diesel (24% of total output), petrol (22%), fuel oil (15%) and kerosene-paraffin (13%). The site has its own road tanker and rail terminals for fuel distribution. Products are also shipped around the country from the Port of Grangemouth, with excess production exported around the world by ocean-going vessels. Other products include natural gas (methane), liquefied petroleum gas (propane and butane) and specialised jet fuel, together with hydrogen, ethanol, benzene, ethylene, propylene, sulphur, plastics, industrial solvents and many other chemicals. Production is integrated with nearby chemical and manufacturing companies, whose own products include plastic containers and films for packaging, pipes, insulation fibres, textiles, pharmaceuticals, fuel additives, adhesives, paints and synthetic rubber for vehicle tyres, belts and hoses. Pipelines deliver feedstock locally, but also over long distances. The refinery is connected to the Finnart Ocean Terminal on the west coast of Scotland and Grangemouth is also at the centre of the UK ethylene network, a product manufactured at the Shell/ExxonMobil Fife Ethylene Plant at Mossmorran and piped as far as Teeside and Cheshire in England. The 155-mile / 250-km Wilton-Grangemouth Ethylene Pipeline was laid in 1979, initially to bring the gas to Grangemouth but the direction of flow was reversed in 1985 after Mossmorran came on stream. The 256-mile / 412-km North West Ethylene Pipeline was constructed in 1992 to transport feedstock to the Stanlow Oil Refinery in Cheshire. A new £450-million ethane import terminal has been developed to process shale gas brought from the USA. The gas will be transported to the Mossmorran plant for conversion to ethylene via an existing pipeline.

In 2008, INEOS was the world's third largest chemical company with sales of around $45 billion and 16,600 staff at 76 manufacturing facilities in 20 countries. The company employs around 700 refinery and 600 petrochemicals staff at Grangemouth, with up to 1000 on-site contractors. In 2011, INEOS sold a 50% stake in their European refining operations to PetroChina, an arm of the China National Petroleum Corporation.

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