ONE OF Hampshire’s biggest industrial sites has unveiled plans for a new production facility costing hundreds of millions of pounds.

Proposals being drawn up by ExxonMobil are said to represent the biggest investment in the future of Fawley refinery for almost 30 years.

A hydrogen plant fed by natural gas will form part of the new development, which will also include two furnaces.

The state-of-the-art facility, expected to cost more than £500 million, will enable the refinery to boost its output of low-sulphur diesel and thus reduce the country’s reliance on imports.

ExxonMobil says the proposed development will help secure the site’s long-term future, plus the jobs of the 1,000 people who work there.

The plant will create more than 500 temporary construction jobs and scores of permanent posts once it is up and running.

Fawley bosses hope the scheme will be approved by the ExxonMobil board during the second quarter of next year. It will also require planning permission from New Forest District Council and a permit from the Environment Agency.

A large site is already being cleared to make way for the new buildings.

The plant will be used to produce Ultra Low Sulphur Diesel (ULSD), a cleaner type of fuel that has been standard in Europe for several years. If all goes well it will start operating in either 2021 or 2022.

Refinery manager Simon Downing, pictured, said the facility would have “no discernible impact” on people living near the 3,200-acre site.

He added: “During the construction process there will be some traffic considerations but we don’t anticipate any subsequent changes in noise or emissions. “

About 50 per cent of the diesel used in the UK is currently imported.