UK Chemical Industry under Threat

July 16, 2009
Pharmaceutical Technology Editors

ePT--the Electronic Newsletter of Pharmaceutical Technology

In the wake of Dow Chemical?s announcement that it is to close facilities in the UK, the country?s biggest union, Unite, has called for urgent intervention from the Government to avert, what it believes, could be a crisis in the UK chemical sector.

In the wake of Dow Chemical’s announcement that it will close facilities in the United Kingdom, the country’s biggest union, Unite, has called for urgent intervention from the government to avert what it believes could be a crisis in the UK chemical sector.

As part of its continued restructuring plan, which was announced in late 2008, Dow will close its ethylene oxide and glycol production facility at Wilton, Teesside in the UK. A casualty of the closure is Croda’s neighboring manufacturing site, which uses raw materials supplied by Dow. Croda will be closing these facilities and, as a result, half of the site’s production will be moved to France and to four other sites around the world.

Unite fears that the UK chemical industry is likely to suffer a domino effect of plant closures following Dow’s announcement; the union has written a letter of warning to the UK First Secretary of State, Lord Mandelson, urging immediate action.

“The closure makes the whole of the Wilton complex vulnerable; already Croda and Petroplus operating on the site are consulting over closure,” Phil McNulty, Unite national officer for the chemical sector, told Pharmaceutical Technology Europe. “Last month Invista closed its plant, and Arteneus have not produced for some months and look vulnerable. This is almost half of the major chemical producers in the UK. All of the plants are interdependent,” he explained.

According to McNulty, the ethylene oxide plant that Dow is closing also produces monoethylene glycol; it is the only plant in the UK to do so. “Since ethylene oxide is too dangerous to transport, it means that those cosmetic, detergent, and industrial applications which rely on this chemical will have serious competitive disadvantages when made in the UK. We calculate a negative impact of £560 million [$921 million] on UK balance of payments, and a probable loss of 3000 UK jobs,” McNulty warned.