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Chemicals and Process Industries
The process and chemical industries form the most extensive manufacturing sector of North East England. They are hugely dynamic and are expected to experience further sustained and rapid growth in the years ahead.
More than 1,400 companies, generating over £26 billion in annual sales, are involved directly or are in the sector’s supply chain within the North East. These employ around 190,000 people and the sector exports products worth around £12 billion a year.
Many leading global names in the base chemical industry have bases in the North East, and 58% of the entire UK petrochemical industry is concentrated mainly in the Tees Valley area. The sub-sector employs more than 10,000 people. It has an extensive infrastructure of plants and storage facilities, and a sophisticated supply chain infrastructure.
Within the fine and speciality chemicals sub sector, more than 60 companies, with combined sales of over £2.8 billion a year, are involved in what is one of the North East’s most rapidly growing and vibrant industrial clusters. They produce a wide range of fine and speciality chemicals, including raw materials for use in the production of agrichemicals, food flavourings, fragrances, soaps, pigments and photographic film.
The ambition is to build on this powerful industrial base to make the North East one of the most competitive and successful areas in the world for process manufacturing and technological development.
It is an ambition shared by all the universities, public sector agencies and businesses in the North East, who have formed extensive collaborative partnerships to support development.
Through the leadership of the Centre for Process Innovation (CPI), based at the Wilton Centre in Tees Valley and backed strongly by One North East, cutting edge research with industrial partners is bringing exciting technologies to commercial development.
Further leadership is provided by the North East Process Industry Cluster (NEPIC), also based at Wilton, which represents over 500 companies. It promotes collaborative development between businesses and helps identify opportunities to compete in the global market or build supply chain relationships.
The importance of the sector in the North East is underlined by the fact that Darlington was chosen as the location for the UK's National Skills Academy for Process Industries.
Chemicals and Process Industries
Areas of Expertise
Base and Petrochemicals
Many leading global names in the base chemical industry have bases in the North East, and 58% of the entire UK petrochemical industry is concentrated mainly in the Tees Valley area.
The sub-sector employs more than 10,000 people. It has an extensive infrastructure of plants and storage facilities, and a sophisticated supply chain infrastructure.
Some of the largest chemical processing companies in the world – Sabic, Dupont, Dow, Lucite International, Huntsman and Croda – have large operations at Wilton International, near Middlesbrough.
Saudi Arabian company Sabic UK Petrochemicals, for example, has been investing hundreds of millions of pounds in the world’s largest low density polyethylene cracker plant. The material produced there will be used in packaging applications across UK and European markets.
In addition to Wilton, there are major processing facilities elsewhere in Tees Valley at Billingham, North Tees and Seal Sands. Other key companies that have made big investments in new plant include Invista, Advansa and BOC.
The base chemicals and petrochemicals industries contribute circa £3.5 billion annually to the North East economy. Among the huge range of products are polyester and polymer fibres produced for textile manufacturing, and chemicals supplied for use in the production of adhesives, coatings, inks, resins, lubricants and food additives.
Important bulk industry activities include oil refining, and North Sea gas-liquid separation plants at Seal Sands.
Fine and Speciality Chemicals
More than 60 companies, with combined sales of over £2.8 billion a year, are involved in what is one of the North East’s most rapidly growing and vibrant industrial clusters.
They produce a wide range of fine and speciality chemicals, including raw materials for use in the production of agrichemicals, food flavourings, fragrances, soaps, pigments and photographic film.
The companies range from some of the largest international producers such as Evonik, BASF, Dupont and Elementis, to specialist firms like Frutarom which makes food flavourings and fragrances.
Frutarom now owns one of the most innovative smaller companies in Tees Valley, Oxford Chemicals. This has important research and development strengths in the field of sulphur and synthetic materials.
Another smaller business making an impact is Fine Organics, with an independent and expanding operation at Seal Sands in Tees Valley previously owned by German multinational Evonik. Evonik produces fine chemicals for use in the manufacture of cosmetics, agrichemicals and consumer products.
At the leading edge of the sector is High Force Research, a locally grown company that began life on Durham University Science Park and which is now based in purpose-built laboratories at nearby Bowburn. In addition to its own specialist discoveries, it provides larger companies with R&D and chemical synthesis services.
A third of the entire UK pharmaceutical industry is based in North East England, with top global manufacturers operating their most important European factories in the area alongside a substantial network of suppliers.
Among the leading companies is GlaxoSmithKline, the world’s second largest pharmaceutical maker, which has a 60-acre site at Barnard Castle, County Durham, employing over 1,100 people.
Merck Sharp & Dohme has a major factory at Cramlington, Northumberland, producing base compounds for use in drug production.
Sanofi-Aventis has a key plant at Fawdon in Newcastle. This has been completely refurbished over recent years in a £100 million investment by the company. It produces more than 3.5 billion tablets and 70 million packs of medicines a year.
With substantial research activities being conducted at Newcastle and Durham Universities, the North East is a magnet for early stage and expanding pharmaceutical companies
The Specials Laboratory, for example, in Prudhoe, Northumberland, began life in premises at Newcastle University making bespoke medicines for hospitals and pharmacies throughout the UK. Within a decade it has become one of the fastest growing companies in the country, with a listing in the Sunday Times Fast Track 100.
On the innovation front SSL International has one of its two global R&D centres at a purpose-built plant in Peterlee, County Durham.
Indian company NPIL Pharmaceuticals UK has opened a major plant at Morpeth, Northumberland, specialising in advanced ingredients and formulations.
The number of biotechnology companies in North East England has doubled over a three year period, as this emerging sector has become a major focal point for growth.
There are strategic ambitions, now reaching an advanced stage, to make the North East one of the leading areas in the world for biotechnology R&D and manufacturing.
The National Industrial Biotechnology Facility, with laboratories and pilot plant development capabilities, is part of CPI at Wilton International.
Among the companies is Avecia Biologics, a highly innovative firm producing advanced medicines using bioprocessing techniques. It has invested in a £75 million state-of-the-art Advanced Biologics Centre at Billingham.
At Consett, in County Durham, multinational bioprocessing manufacturer Millipore UK has developed a plant producing high value proteins.
And Cambridge Research Biochemicals has a base in Billingham where it prepares peptides and antibodies which it supplies for clinical research purposes.
Some of the most exciting biotechnological developments are taking place in the biofuels field. At Wilton International, Ensus has built a £300 million plant – Europe’s largest – producing bio-ethanol for use in ultra low sulphur motor fuels and also surplus electricity which is used by other nearby factories.
A cutting edge second generation bio-ethanol and power plant, using biodegradable household and industrial waste, is now being built at Seal Sands by INEOS Bio. This will be the first facility of its kind in the world.
Chemicals and Process Industries
Key Facts & Figures
- More than 1,400 companies are involved in the North East’s process and chemical industries and their supply chains.
- The Centre for Process Innovation (CPI) is bringing cutting edge technologies to commercial realisation.
More than 50 companies are involved in the rapidly emerging biotechnology field, and have combined sales of over £700 million.
- The North East Process Industry Cluster, an association of over 500 companies, is the largest of its kind in the UK.
- Wilton International, Billingham and Seal Sands in Tees Valley together form an integrated chemicals complex with the largest manufacturing capacity in the UK.
- More than 60 companies, with combined sales of over £2.8 billion a year, are involved in the fast-growing fine and speciality chemicals sub-sector.
- North East England produces a third of all the pharmaceuticals made in the UK.
- Sabic UK Petrochemicals operates the world’s largest polyethylene cracker plant at Wilton International.
- The National Industrial Biotechnology Facility is based at Wilton International.
- Ensus has developed Europe’s largest bio-ethanol plant at Wilton, at a cost of £300 million.
- The National Skills Academy for Process Industries is at Darlington.
- Specials Laboratory in Prudhoe, Northumberland, is one of the fastest growing pharmaceutical companies in the UK.
Chemicals and Process Industries
The Wilton Centre situated in the North East of England provides office, laboratory and pilot plant accommodation at competitive rental terms with immediate occupancy.
The spacious complex contains a range of office and technical facilities set in a 75 acre landscaped park with its own lake and courtyards. It is home to fifty companies, including a number of prestigious multinationals.
Collectively, the research and technology community at The Wilton Centre constitutes one of the most significant science and engineering communities in UK industry.
The North East of England Process Industry Cluster (NEPIC) is a stand-alone company, limited by guarantee, which was created and is owned by its member companies to represent the companies and supply chain of the Process Industry in the region.
NEPIC, which is lead by senior industrialists, has a reputation for delivery of projects that enhance the sustainability of the Process Industry Sector. These projects are identified, developed and delivered through a series of Thrust Teams set up by the industry.
- Growth & Investment
- Marketing & Communication
- Productivity & Efficiency
- Skills & Education
- SME Development & Trade
- Engineering for Process
- Integrated Manufacturers Forum
- Transport Biofuels
In all of these areas significant results have been achieved through the cluster providing a conduit for the industry to collaborate, identify issues and work together to address them.
The Centre for Process Innovation (CPI) is an internationally renowned R&D facility for the Advanced Manufacturing and Chemicals sector.
CPI’s pioneering work in low carbon energy from hydrogen fuel cells offers companies, in the new and renewable energy market, access to world class testing facilities and technical expertise, supporting innovation and commercialisation in this area, with recent success including the world's first hydrogen-powered lighthouse.
The pilot manufacturing and process development services located in the National Industrial Biotechnology Facility (NIBF) is an industrially focused service within the Centre for Process Innovation (CPI) at Wilton. It comprises a development laboratory and pilot-plant capabilities.
The new £12m National Industrial Biotechnology Facility (NIBF), based at the CPI, is transforming the way chemicals are manufactured. Using revolutionary biotechnology techniques, firms can process chemicals in cleaner, greener and less wasteful ways than traditional methods.
This latest facility at the Centre is based on the rapidly emerging field of biotechnology, which uses natural substances to produce environmentally-friendly manufacturing methods. In this case, it uses catalysts - or enzymes - to conduct biotransformations. These produce molecules that can be used to make everything from chemicals, pharmaceuticals and polymers to colorants, pesticides and biodiesel.
NIBF is building a unit for a UK research institute which will convert waste biomass into bioenergy. It is also working on developing biorefineries that can use crops or waste material to produce energy, fuel and heat instead of burning fossil fuels. GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) is one of several large companies that is working on one of these schemes with CPI.
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