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Wilton International, a 2,000-acre industrial site in Teesside, UK, is home to a well-established cluster of energy-intensive businesses, each benefiting from a unique combination of infrastructure, utilities and services. And with 562 acres of development land currently available, the site is drawing significant interest from prospective new occupants with similar requirements.
“At present, we have development plots available in sizes from 2.5 up to 66 acres”, says Matthew Scrimshaw, Commercial Director at Sembcorp Energy UK, the company that manages the site and owns much of the land.
“Some of the land we have available can be repurposed from previous uses, and some has never been used before, making it ideal for businesses looking for greenfield sites. It’s a great mix - we can accommodate a wide range of needs and most sorts of industrial process.”
Cost-effective energy on site
One of the primary draws of Wilton International is its impressive on-site energy provision.
“The site has five different generating assets and its own private wire electricity network,” says Matthew. “We can provide power for a lower price than you might pay if you were connecting to the National Grid and importing it.”
“Basically, the energy consumed on the site doesn’t attract many of the levies and charges that would otherwise apply. Our ability to provide power at attractive prices is very important to both our existing customers and new businesses considering the site – cheap energy in very large quantities.”
But it’s not just electricity that’s on tap at Wilton International.
“Heat in the form of steam is also very important to a lot of industrial businesses and we can provide that in large quantities, not to mention various grades of water and industrial gases,” Matthew says.
As companies that have invested at Wilton International know, planning at the site is unusually business-friendly, for two key reasons. The first is a legal provision called an Instrument of Consent, which dates from the site’s origins as an ICI chemical facility.
“The Instrument of Consent was granted to ICI in 1946,” Matthew explains. “It means that almost any greenfield land can be used for pretty much anything without planning permission.”
“The planning process for large businesses coming here and building new plants is often much more straightforward than it would be elsewhere. The energy from waste power station recently built on the site, for example, didn’t require planning permission, we just used the Instrument of Consent.
“It isn’t guaranteed in every single case, but in a lot of instances accelerated or very straightforward planning will apply.”
The second reason is the positive stance of the local authority, Redcar & Cleveland Borough Council, which is consistently highly supportive of new business developments, both at Wilton International and in the wider borough.
“The council is and always has been very supportive,” Matthew says.
A variety of energy-intensive businesses
Although Wilton International’s roots are in the chemical sector, the businesses currently on the site represent a diverse mix.
“Our current customers include SABIC, a petrochemical cracker, Huntsman who are running polyurethane plants that require large amounts of energy, and ENSUS, who have built a refinery which turns grain into bioethanol with a by-product of animal feed stocks,” says Matthew.
“As well as new arrivals we’ve had existing chemical-sector customers build additional plants. The Polyester business, acquired earlier this year by Alpek, built a new plant in the last 10 years, and SABIC built a new LDPE plant in addition to its petrochemical plant.
“We also have Anglo-American, who are building a very large polyhalite mine over at Whitby, so there’ll be an underground interconnecting tunnel to a processing facility at Wilton International.”
“What all these businesses have in common is that they’ve been able to come to the site and benefit from the existing infrastructure. They’re able to connect to the existing facilities on a plug-and-play basis. That means substantial savings on capital spend because they haven’t had to build any ancillary facilities.”
“On that basis, we welcome new energy-intensive customers, whether they be chemical related or not. The more customers there are, the more the fixed costs of the on-site facilities can be spread between them, so it’s better for everybody.”
One of the emerging trends among businesses enquiring about development land at Wilton International is the shift towards sustainability.
“We’ve talked to various types of companies, including those who want to get into recycling, taking plastic and turning it into chemical feedstock,” says Matthew. “One theme that’s very current or the moment is decarbonisation. There’s been a lot in the press about Net Zero Teesside, which is working towards the UK’s first zero-carbon industrial cluster.
“That will benefit all of Teesside, including Wilton International, because it will provide a carbon capture and storage (CCS) capability. This would allow natural gas to be burned, but with any carbon emissions being captured and stored. It would be transformational for us and for the region.
“There are few, if any, sites across the world which can offer that at present. It will mean that the area becomes a magnet for energy-intensive users who want to have a low carbon footprint.” The CCS capability would strengthen Wilton International’s current renewable energy sources, which include the biomass plant Wilton 10 and the waste-to-energy facility Wilton 11.
Resilience in challenging times
The Wilton International site has weathered many changes over the years, not least the recent impacts of coronavirus on business and society.
“Our customers make products which, directly or indirectly, contribute to the effort against coronavirus,” says Matthew. “Alpek’s product ultimately gets used in PPE visors, and a lot of the core building blocks of plastics generally come out of our site, so it’s a very important location for the medical sector generally.”
“Our business and all of our customers have carried on running throughout. We’ve introduced social distancing measures and the maintenance and operation of all the plants has been able to continue. Through NEPIC, the trade association that supports the chemical industry in the Northeast, we’ve been sharing best practices between businesses and coordinating our efforts. That’s really shown the strength of the industrial cluster at Wilton International and on Teesside – everyone has pulled together to keep our businesses running.”
A bright future for energy-intensive industry
With cost-effective on-site services including power, steam, gas and water, a diverse industrial cluster and an evolving low-carbon capability, the future looks bright for Wilton International’s growing community of energy-intensive businesses. Could yours be one of them?