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INEOS cites safety and environmental costs as reasons for potential closure of UK plant

03 October 2019

On October 3, UK-based chemicals giant INEOS announced its intention to consult with employees on the proposed closure of its acrylonitrile manufacturing plant at Seal Sands on Teesside in north-east England.

The Seal Sands plant - Image: INEOS
The Seal Sands plant - Image: INEOS

The site, which employs 224, has been in INEOS ownership since 2008.  In the event the plant closes, the company said, not all of these positions will be at risk of redundancy due to the continuation of other activities at Seal Sands.

In a statement, INEOS said that over the past 10 years, the group had invested almost €200m in the site to try to counter decades of significant under investment.  Despite reinvestment of all profits in the site to reverse this situation, the company took the view that nothing more could be done to ensure that operations were both safe and economically viable.

It would require another €200m just to meet INEOS standards and environmental regulations, the company said, and it intends to consult on any viable alternatives to closure.

“The acrylonitrile process needs careful management and involves handling significant quantities of hazardous material. 
The company feels that it would not be possible to guarantee the long-term safety of our employees or our neighbours through continued operation of the plant and have thus reluctantly concluded that we should consider the option to close,” the statement said.

In October 2018, the Greenpeace blog Unearthed published a letter it said was obtained under freedom of information legislation from an INEOS director to the UK Government threatening to close the plant because of the excessive cost of implementing planned new EU environmental regulations.

In the letter, INEOS said the Seal Sands acrylonitrile plant was only just breaking even, and the compliance costs of meeting the Waste Incineration Directive (by June 2020) and the Waste Water Emission Directive (by November 2021) were estimated at €100m.

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