The UK’s National Highways is closing the M53 later this month to facilitate the transport of the main module of the country’s first hydrogen-ready furnace.

FurnaceModule-2022 essar

The furnace will be moved to Essar Oil’s Stanlow refinery near Ellesmere Port in Cheshire. The refinery is located on the south bank of the River Mersey, flanked on its west by the M53 and M56 to the south. The largest module of the furnace measures 26.5 m x 18.5 m x 14.2 m and has made its way to the UK from Thailand. It arrived at the port of Liverpool in June and was transferred to a barge for transport along the Manchester Ship Canal and onto a holding bay near National Waterways Museum at Ellesmere Port.  

On August 13, it will make its way along the M53 – straddling both the northbound and southbound carriageways – for delivery to the Stanlow site.

Gordon Beattie, National Highways’ abnormal loads manager for the North West, said: “There are abnormal loads and there are abnormal loads – and this one will completely fill the motorway. The module will be mounted on two wheeled platforms – one on each carriageway. This has been a huge logistical challenge for everyone involved but we’ll be closing the motorway at a time when traffic is at its lightest and a very good diversion will be in place.”


As part of the work to accommodate the abnormal load, National Highways will need to remove and restore a number of lighting columns and matrix signs from the central reservation, boundary fencing and safety barrier from the verge, some safety barrier from the central reservation and a number of signs.

Stewart Prentice, head of projects at Essar, added: “The new furnace is one of the largest objects ever to be moved on UK roads and key to Essar’s strategy of transitioning to being a low carbon energy provider at the forefront of decarbonisation in the Northwest.”