Major plans to upgrade Wilton’s Cracker will create many hundreds of construction jobs and safeguard thousands more on Teesside.
SABIC UK will convert its massive plant to take US shale gas, in a “very significant” investment that will make it one of the most competitive plants of its kind in Europe.
Directors say the work, due to be finished in 2016, will secure the long-term future of the Teesside business.
A series of ‘future-proofing’ measures was announced by the company last year following a global drop in demand for products.
The 223-acre Cracker (Olefins 6) was built in 1979 and makes the essential chemical building blocks for everyday items from toothbrushes to TV and car parts - but sales have been hit by cheaper foreign manufacturers.
The ‘shale revolution’ in the States has created larges supplies of competitively priced gas.
SABIC’S work to convert the Cracker will enable it to use ethane.
Work is already underway to build cryogenic tank at the company’s North Tees site, between Port Clarence and Seaton Carew. as part of an import terminal for the project. Darlington firm Whessoe has been contracted for the work.
SABIC has also won the backing of Government, with more than £9m secured from its Regional Growth Fund (RGF)
Universities, Science and Cities Minister Greg Clark said the investment shows “real confidence” in Teesside and the UK economy and is great news for local employment.
He said: “It is a significant example of how we can use the RGF to support businesses to deliver their plans for growth. It also gives me particular pleasure as someone who grew up a stone’s throw away from Wilton.”
“This Government is backing the British chemicals sector – helping to create jobs and growth in the North East. Through RGF we have invested over £320m in the region to help companies expand and create long-term, highly skilled employment.”