MORE than £800m is set to be invested in Fawley refinery in a move that could create up to 1,000 construction jobs.

ExxonMobil has announced plans to expand the refinery to increase production of ultra-low sulphur diesel by 38,000 barrels per day, an increase of almost 45%.

Bosses at the multi-national oil and gas corporation say the move would help reduce the need to import diesel into the United Kingdom, which imported about half of its supply in 2017.

The major investment would pay for a hydrotreater unit, which removes sulphur from diesel, supported by a hydrogen plant.

However, the plans will first need to be signed off by New Forest District Council. If approved, construction is set to begin in late 2019 and come into use in 2021.

Fawley refinery manager Simon Downing said: “This latest significant investment supports the long-term competitiveness of Fawley, Britain’s largest integrated refinery and petrochemical plant.

“It also reflects ExxonMobil’s strong and continued presence in the UK.

“We will continue to work with the Government to ensure the long term competitiveness of the site.”

The proposals, which are currently in the detailed engineering and design stage, were first revealed by ExxonMobil in September and represent the biggest investment in the future of Fawley refinery for almost 30 years.

At the time ExxonMobil said the proposed development will help secure the site’s long-term future. Mr Downing said the facility would have “no discernible impact” on people living near the 3,200-acre site, adding: “During the construction process there will be some traffic considerations but we don’t anticipate any subsequent changes in noise or emissions.”

Commenting on the investment, New Forest East MP Dr Julian Lewis welcomed the “major investment”.

“It would do much better to have diesel refined to our standards in the UK, rather than in another country and transported.”

Mark Baulch, head of policy and representation at Hampshire Chamber Commerce, added: "Hampshire Chamber of Commerce cautiously welcomes the news of further investment.

"Naturally we hope that this will strengthen the possibility of reopening the Fawley railway branch line.

"Once again this demonstrates the strength of the Solent economy."