UK chemicals sector gets £50 million in government aid

A major government aid package will help safeguard over 10,000 jobs in the UK chemicals sector, Trade and Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt announced today.

£50 million worth of Regional Selective Assistance has been awarded to chlorine manufacturer Ineos Chlor to help modernise its Runcorn facility on Merseyside.

Over 2000 direct jobs at the plant will be safeguarded by the aid, part of a £389 million investment programme by the company, safeguarding around a further 8,000 jobs in associated businesses which are dependent upon the Runcorn site.

The modernisation includes the installation of modern membrane cell technology for the production of chlorine and caustic soda from brine; building a new, more efficient, steam-generating plant; and the installation of modern computer control systems.

Around 8000 indirect jobs will be safeguarded in associated businesses which are dependent upon the Runcorn site, as the plant produces 80% of the UK’s supply of chlorine.

‘This assistance not only demonstrates the government’s commitment to high skilled, high value manufacturing but also secures well paid jobs in areas where the unemployment rate is much higher than the UK average,’ said Hewitt.

‘A strong UK chemicals industry is a crucial part of our manufacturing base and of the UK economy,’ added Hewitt. ‘Products of the chemical industry form the basis for every manufacturing activity -vital to transport, healthcare, food and drink, construction, textiles and IT.’

According to the DTI, the investment will make the Runcorn site more environmentally friendly. The construction of a modern steam boiler plant will virtually eliminate its emissions of sulphur dioxide and will reduce its nitrogen dioxide emissions by 80%. In addition, new technology will ensure the site will consume around 15% less energy.

The assistance is subject to European Commission approval and consists of £40 million grant and £10 million loan.

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