An oil company has been fined nearly half a million pounds for two pollution incidents in Cheshire.
Essar Oil (UK) Ltd, which is headquartered in India and operates Stanlow oil refinery in Ellesmere Port, pleading guilty to breaching the conditions of its environmental permit at Chester crown court.
On 27 October, it was fined £497,284 with £40,000 for three counts of breaching regulation 38(2) of the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2010.
The case relates to two separate incidents, both of which happened in 2012.
On 31 July 2012, the roof of an oil storage tank failed under pressure at Stanlow oil refinery. This caused a plume of steam and long residue (a type of oil) to be released into the atmosphere and fine droplets of oil were reported over an area about 5.3km long and 0.8km wide.
The oil affected gravestones at a nearby cemetery, local businesses and vehicles which had to be cleaned. The incident led to a large number of local complaints and Essar incurred significant clean-up costs.
In a separate incident on 19 August 2012, five tonnes of oil entered the Manchester Ship Canal following failures in the operation of Essar’s effluent management system. The incident caused Manchester Ship Canal to close to all shipping traffic for two days while it was being cleaned.
In sentencing, the judge said: “In my judgement this fine will achieve the statutory purpose. The penalty is not only proportionate and just, but will bring home to the management and shareholders the need to protect the environment.”
The Environment Agency said Essar has since improved its environmental performance.
In a statement, Essar Oil UK said: “We made clear to the courts from the outset that we accepted responsibility for these incidents. We take these matters very seriously. We conducted a thorough investigation following the incidents in 2012 and measures were put in place to ensure they could not happen again.”