50 years of Lindsey Oil Refinery*

The refinery is a key asset for the region and for the group. We are delighted to celebrate 50 years of refining.

Jean Marc Durand, General Manager Lindsey Oil Refinery 


The History of Total Lindsey Oil Refinery through the decades

1960’s A New Era

the new LOR

In 1963 Total Oil (Great Britain Ltd) wanted to build a refinery in the UK which would be near to healthy markets in an area with good transport links for the arrival of Crude Oil and the export of refined products. A good local labour force needed to be available and suitable land needed to be found for the development. The advantage of the Humber Estuary with its proximity to the North Sea provided access to the main ports of Northern Europe, specifically Rotterdam; whilst its proximity to the Midlands and North of England offered an unrivalled potential to meet the market.

LORIn June 1964 Total announced that North Killingholme would be the location of their new refinery. Discussion then began with the Belgian group, Petrofina and by February 1965 a partnership deal was struck. The name Lindsey was chosen to reflect the geographical area.

In 1965 options were taken on 1,800 acres of land and the refinery site’s development programme was underway. Two million tons of earth had to be moved as a first task, then by January 1966 construction could begin at North Killingholme. A core team were assembled from refineries all over the world and construction was completed in 1967. In March, 1968, the initial stage 1 refinery came on stream, producing a complete range of petroleum products exclusively for Total at the rate of 3.1 million tons per year. This was followed on June 28, by the official opening, by the Right Honourable Ray Gunter.

Along with a basic hydro skimming refinery, for the distillation of crude oil, stage 1 featured a hydro-desulphurisation (HDS) unit, which removes sulphur from diesel oil. First products were; petrol, diesel, heavy fuel oil, domestic fuel oil, butane and propane gas for domestic and industrial applications, and jet fuel.


1970s - Expansion needed

Stage Two, came on stream in January 1970 and provided Petrofina with a duplicate Crude Distillation Unit and additional facilities enabling a wider range of crude oils to be processed.

The combined annual refining capacity of the two stages was about six million tons and the refinery was processing nine million tonnes of crude a year.

The first North Sea crude oil to be refined in the UK arrived at LOR from Ekofisk field in 1971. The initial refinery accepted relatively limited types of crude oil, distilling them into fractions – light, medium and heavy hydrocarbons which are the most useable components of crude oil. The lighter fractions produced combustible gases used as refinery fuel, liquid petroleum gas (LPG) and Naphtha for re-processing to produce high octane petrol. The middle sections comprised mainly kerosene, used largely in jet fuel and gas oil for diesel and central heating fuel.

In 1973 the Arab-Israeli war resulted in a sudden cut off in oil supplies from the Middle East. For the UK’s economy, industrial action dominated and rising oil prices resulted in a long winter of power cuts, reduced speed limits on our roads, a three day week, cold work places and town centre streets plunged into darkness at night. Demand for fuel oil suffered a decline, whilst the demand for petrol and diesel increased steadily. The future for LOR became clear, further major expansion was needed to enable the refinery to convert much of the fuel oil and LPG produced by the crude units directly into petrol products.

At the end of 1977, work started on the third and most complex expansion of the production facilities: The construction of the Fluid Catalytic Cracking unit (FCCU) and an associated HF Alkylation unit. Together, they would enable most of the fuel oil and LPG produced by the Stage 1 and 2 units to be converted into gasoline products. Stage three also included a sulphur recovery unit allowing sulphur to be extracted and sold to the chemical industry; gasoline sweetening units and a Power Recovery Train (PRT), which harnesses waste gases to power a blower supplying air to the catalyst regenerator and to generate electricity.

Additional investments to support the new units included; tank storage, effluent treatment units, emergency relief system, water treatment, steam generation and cooling plants, a highly sophisticated control room, two electrical sub-stations and a training block. The stage 3 conversion unit came on line in 1980 and its construction increased the workforce by almost a third.


1980s - Further investment

LOR Shareholders continued to invest in additional plant to improve the refinery’s flexibility and    efficiency. The next phase for LOR was the construction of a Visbreaker unit and a Catalytic Polymerisation Unit –Stage 4 came on stream in 1983.

Stage 4 comprises two separate units, which use different processes from the previous Stages to increase output, achieve even higher levels of purity and also to create more environmentally-friendly products. LOR also began producing polypropylene gas, used in the manufacture of various types of plastics.

Legislation to promote unleaded petrol led to the construction and inauguration of the MTBE and TAME units in 1985, to produce methyl tetra butyl ether (MTBE) and tertiary amyl methyl ether (TAME). These units, producing high octane blending components which avoid the use of lead additives, were among the first in the world, coming into production in 1987.


During the mid-1980’s computerisation expanded within the refinery. Process control rooms were computerised and instrumentation upgraded together with on-line blending analysers, oil movements by rail and road and storage metering. On April 4, 1989 Total group president Francois-Xavier Ortoli inaugurated the re-instrumentation of stage 1 and 2 control rooms.



1990s - Energy efficiency

Investment continued throughout the 1990’s including the construction of the 140 mile Fina Line - linked to the Buncefield Terminal in Hertfordshire and giving access to the British Pipeline Agency distribution network. The Finaline was officially opened on May 15, 1991.

The off sites area was upgraded introducing modern technology to the blending control room, tank farm, LPG and Bitumen area. New rail cars were introduced and the road loading area was extended. In 1991 a new stack was constructed at a height of 130 metres; when it was first constructed two of the stacks serviced the utilities plant and the third serviced the CDU2 and VDU1.

In April 1992 a second propylene splitter unit was commissioned by one of the shareholders Total. This enabled LOR to process all of the GCU (gas concentration unit) propylene. A Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG) Recovery Unit, better known as the Cryogenic Unit, was installed to recover LPG from Fuel Gas as a saleable product. Further environmental investments were also made at the refinery during this period, including a new water treatment plant, which brought substantial improvements in the quality and cleanliness of liquid effluent.

Construction of a combined heat and power plant (CHP) made the refinery self-sufficient for its heating and electricity needs with spare power being sold to the national grid. The plant was officially opened in April 1997.


2000s - Sustainable future

In 2000 Total, Fina and Elf merged to become one company TOTALFINAELF; the fourth largest oil company in the world. LOR changed from an independent company responsible to two different shareholders to becoming part of a global organisation.

In May 2003 the parent company was re-branded to TOTAL and the refinery became known as Total Lindsey Oil Refinery.

One of the most notable changes was the construction of the centralised control room to remotely view and control the production process for stage 1&2 and stage 3&4. Construction of the building began in August 2000 and the new building was fully occupied in 2002.

The Distributed Control Systems (DCS) have been updated in all areas across the refinery to keep up to date with new technology and deliver key data to the employees running the process.

One of the biggest investments at Lindsey Oil Refinery was the construction of the HDS3 facility, a new hydro-desulphurisation unit for the removal of sulphur from diesel fuel. The design phase of HDS-3 started at the end of 2004 when the decision was made to relocate the engineering workshops, stores and offices, and construct the new unit in their place.

The old offices and workshops were demolished to make way for the build of the new HDS3 unit. The workshops, stores and offices were relocated from the heart of the refinery to a new home at Rosper Road. The relocation project also involved the construction of a new bridge to provide easy access to the refinery from the Rosper Road entrance.

Construction began on the HDS3 unit in May 2007. The project involved building a third Hydro De-Sulpurisation unit and to support this unit a hydrogen producing plant (an SMR or Steam Methane Reformer) and a third sulphur recovery unit. The project also involved integrating the new process into the refinery’s existing network.

As the UK demand for high quality fuels continued to rise, the commissioning of the HDS-3 in 2011 was a key investment for LOR. The project focused on the production of ultra-low-sulphur fuels, enabling LOR to produce both diesel and petrol from crude oils with a higher sulphur content. In 2015 an adaptation plan was started to streamline the refinery’s production capacity and organisation. This involved the stopping of crude distillation 1 unit. The changes enabled Total Lindsey Oil Refinery to become a smaller, higher converting and more profitable refinery. As part of the adaptation major investment was injected into the refinery to reinforce the conversion units and optimise the logistics, allowing the refinery to produce cleaner lighter fuels and improve energy efficiency.

In 2015 an adaptation plan was started to streamline the refinery’s production capacity and organisation. This involved the stopping of crude distillation 1 unit. The changes enabled Total Lindsey Oil Refinery to become a smaller, higher converting and more profitable refinery. As part of the adaptation major investment was injected into the refinery to reinforce the conversion units and optimise the logistics, allowing the refinery to produce cleaner lighter fuels and improve energy efficiency.


Group photo inside the Alley cathedral in the Lindsey Oil Refinery - 06/2017 ©Michel Labelle - Total