A HAMPSHIRE petro-chemical company is playing a key role in the global battle against Covid-19.

A large amount of rubber being produced by the chemicals plant at Fawley refinery is being used in the manufacture of vials containing coronavirus vaccines.

ExxonMobil Fawley says about half of all the rubber being turned into vial stoppers originates from the site.

Jamie Renshaw, chemicals technical manager, said: “Halobutyl rubber creates a strong, impermeable barrier which lends itself perfectly for use in the production of pharmaceutical bottle stoppers, used to keep injectable medicines sealed and sterile.

"The rubber creates a re-sealable barrier, which does not fragment when pierced by the needle of a syringe."

Demand for vials has soared since the worldwide rollout of vaccines began to gather pace.

Jamie added: “By providing approximately 70% of all ExxonMobil pharmaceutical-grade rubber, Fawley is making a significant contribution to the vaccine supply chain.

"We believe in the region of half of all the rubber that goes into the vial stoppers globally may originate from Fawley.”

The plant is also producing several liquids used in the battle to defeat the virus, including fluids for the manufacture of sterile packaging and cleaning agents.

Fawley also makes Methyl Ethyl Ketone, which plays an important role in the production of pharmaceuticals.

Other products include what are known as higher olefins - a component of PPE items including goggles, gloves and face masks.

Fawley is a major contributor to ExxonMobil's global production of ExxalTM 8, used in the production of an adhesive found in masks and respirators. It can also be used to attach surgical products such as drapes and electrodes to patients in hospitals.

Jamie said: “Covid continues to be a massive global challenge, affecting whole populations in ways that most of us would not have predicted just over a year ago.

"Throughout the pandemic ExxonMobil Fawley has remained a reliable supplier to the pharmaceutical industry, making sure we play our part in the fight against this disease.”

ExxonMobil Fawley is the collective name given to the two companies based on the site - Esso Petroleum Company Limited and ExxonMobil Chemical Limited.

The refinery is the largest in the UK, producing enough fuel for one in six cars in the UK.