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Cooperation is key to the success of major industrial projects, and SABIC’s investment at the Wilton International site, in Teesside UK, shows what can be achieved when businesses team up. The company worked closely with site operators Sembcorp Energy UK, local authorities and local businesses to ensure the success of a complex, multi-million pound, chemicals plant upgrade. And they delivered the project on time, on budget.
SABIC, one of the world’s largest petrochemicals manufacturers, recently upgraded their ‘cracker’ at Wilton International (Olefins 6), to run on ethane imported from the USA. The project took two years to deliver, at a cost of £300 million. The company now runs the most feedstock-flexible cracker in Europe, producing ethylene, propylene and butadiene - essential chemical building blocks for many everyday products.
A complex industrial investment project
The project was multi-faceted, with input from partners across Teesside and beyond. As well as major modifications to the cracker itself, SABIC commissioned specially designed large vessels, with cargo capacities of 36,000 m3, to transport the ethane feedstock from the USA. On Teesside, extensive new infrastructure was required. Europe’s largest cryogenic ethane storage tank was built on the north bank of the River Tees, and a new pipeline was constructed to take the feedstock from the port to the Olefins 6 facility.
At Wilton International, the project involved the demolition and disinvestment of redundant plant and major upgrades to the cracker. With top-tier COMAH safety and security standards in place, the site was able to successfully manage the challenges presented by 800+ additional workers on site any given time. Impressively, this major, two-year development project was delivered successfully, safely and on time. SABIC are now able to produce some of the lowest cost-per-tonne ethylene in Europe, while safeguarding their facility against reliance on a single feedstock.
Delivering success through planning and collaboration
The success of the project is a testament to SABIC’s meticulous planning and organisation. However, effective collaboration between project partners was also key. As well as operating the Wilton International site, Sembcorb Energy UK controls service corridors across Teesside, including those used to connect Olefins 6 to the new North Tees storage tank. The use of this established infrastructure - including tunnels, bridges and culvert - combined with Sembcorp’s expertise, enabled the efficient and cost-effective installation of the new pipeline. On the Wilton international site, the capabilities of partners including Falck Fire Services UK enabled the delivery of a safe project on a busy, live site. And the site’s planning consent for heavy industrial projects, backed up by a local authority that actively supports industrial investment, further aided project delivery. Meanwhile, NEPIC, the North East Process Industries Cluster, facilitated co-operation between local industry partners.
As a long-term investment, Wilton International holds additional attractions for SABIC. At present, ethane from the USA is the most cost-effective feedstock for the cracker, however that could change over time. Wilton International’s inter-modal connectivity – road, rail, sea and pipeline - means that feedstocks can be sourced from different places and brought to the site using a choice of transport modes. That flexibility effectively future-proofs businesses on the site against changes in feedstock availability and costs.
SABIC’s success shows what can be achieved when businesses work together to deliver complex projects. It also highlights the advantages of Wilton International, and Teesside overall, for businesses undertaking large-scale industrial investments.