Confusion Over Future of Wilton EO Plant

photo : BBC There is confusion regarding the future of the Wilton, UK EO/glycols plant. Back in July, Dow announced that it intended to close the facility primarily due to the uncompetitiveness of MEG and the need for significant investment to upgrade the plant to produce more di- and tri-ethylene glycols. Local unions have expressed concern about the cascading effect of the closure on other industries in the value chain, with downstream Croda and Shell plants directly impacted by the closure. On a UK-wide basis, this closure, together with the LyondellBasell's recently announced Carrington LDPE closure, puts significant pressure on the UK ethylene balance, with supply now significantly greater than demand. On Sunday, the UK Sunday Times published a story that US-based Third Coast Chemicals were looking to take control of the plant, with the UK government providing most of the required £50m funding in what is regarded as the first leg of a strategic review by the government of the chemicals industry. The Sunday Times quoted 'senior industry sources' stating that 'the government was in the early stages of formulating an assistance programme to the beleaguered £60 billion-a-year industry.' On Tuesday, however, the regional industry group, NEPIC, denied knowledge of any such negotiations, noting that although Third Coast had previously expressed an interest, discussions had since broken down. Difficult to pick out the bones from this story. My view is that the UK ethylene network is at serious risk unless something is done to avoid a major supply/demand imbalance. Wilton, as an important chemical cluster, needs plants such as the EO/glycols facility to secure its future as a centre for chemical industry growth and innovation. The process engineering skills based on Teesside are critical to the UK's ability to develop the low carbon technologies of the future. A coordinated approach, involving government, government agencies and industry is the only possible way to achieve this future.

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