ESSAR have apologised after a gas-like smell escaped from their oil refinery and engulfed much of Ellesmere Port.

There were widespread reports of an unusual odour sweeping across the town on Friday.

Cheshire Police said they received 'multiple calls' from members of the public worried by the mystery stink, which led them to contact gas providers at the National Grid.

The smell was in fact caused during shutdown work at Essar's Stanlow refinery - and was not harmful.

A spokesman for Essar said: "Stanlow refinery is currently shut down for a major maintenance turnaround.

"During pre-commissioning work on a particular unit, a release of odour was reported on Friday night and was addressed at the time.

"We assure the public that the odour was not harmful. We apologise to anyone who was exposed to an unpleasant odour.”

On Friday, Ellesmere Port Police had tweeted: "We are receiving multiple calls of a strong gas-like smell in the Ellesmere Port area. Transco have been informed and have an engineer en-route. We will update you with any more information as we have it."