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Fawley AQMA revoked after oil refinery improvements

Fawley village’s Air Quality Management Area is revoked by the district council after a ‘significant’ reduction of sulphur dioxide emissions from an Esso refinery is achieved

An Air Quality Management Area (AQMA) has been revoked in the village of Fawley, Hampshire after a ‘significant’ improvement in sulphur dioxide levels were monitored in the area, New Forest district council announced yesterday (March 8).

Raised levels of sulphur dioxide led to an AQMA being declared in Fawley in 2005 after the district council determined that the majority of the emissions were from the Esso oil refinery in the village.

The New Forest, Hampshire, with the Esso oil refinery in Fawley pictured in the background

The New Forest, Hampshire, with the Esso oil refinery in Fawley pictured in the background

Since then the council has been working together with the Esso refinery, owned by petroleum firm ExxonMobil, and the Environment Agency to reduce sulphur dioxide emissions in order to meet government objectives.

Monitoring data from the council shows that levels of sulphur dioxide in Fawley exceeded the 15-minute mean objective (266 micrograms per cubic metre) more than 60 times during 2005. Government limits stipulate that 15-minute mean levels of sulphur dioxide should not be exceeded more than 35 times in a year by December 31 2005.

However, government objectives for 15-minute mean levels of sulphur dioxide showed zero exceedances in 2012, which a council report approved by the cabinet described as a ‘significant’ improvement.

Improvements

The reduction in emissions has been achieved through a combination of reduced emission limits for this pollutant and the implementation of technological improvements at the refinery, according to the council.

Changes at the refinery include the installation of new equipment, the conversion of the main boiler to a lower sulphur fuel, alarm system that alerts the refinery to increases in sulphur dioxide concentrations and the introduction of a sulphur dioxide hourly limit at the refinery.

New Forest district council’s head of public health and community safety, Annie Righton, said: “We have been able to achieve this excellent result by working together with ExxonMobil and the Environment Agency and we will continue to monitor air quality in the area for the foreseeable future to ensure that emissions remain within their limits.â€?

Manager of the Esso refinery, John Blowers, said: “Whilst we are delighted that the hard work we have put in to resolve the issue, in association with the council and the Environment Agency, has been recognised by the removal of the Air Quality Management Area; we are going even further in our efforts to reduce sulphur emissions. We are in the early stages of another large sulphur recovery project that will see an additional substantial reduction of sulphur emissions from our site by 2015.â€?

John Massie, technical specialist at the Environment Agency, said: “By working together we have achieved a great result for the environment and the local people. By reducing emissions, the many habitats and plants around Southampton Water and in the New Forest that are sensitive to sulphur dioxide emissions are better protected. The removal of the AQMA is just the start, as we will continue to work together to improve air quality around Fawley.â€?

More information about air quality in Fawley is available on the New Forest district council website.

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