SABIC's Wilton, UK cracker to restart after £850m investment, could run on hydrogen

Author: Nel Weddle


LONDON (ICIS)--Saudi petrochemicals major SABIC is to restart its Wilton, UK steam cracker after an £850m investment, the company and the local mayor said on Thursday.

The Teesside facility, known as Olefins 6, has an ethylene production capacity of 865,000 tonnes/year.

The company would not disclose when it plans to restart the cracker. According to media reports, that would be in 2022.

The cracker was shut down in September 2020 for planned maintenance  which had been scheduled for Spring 2020.

The £850m overhaul will have two phases, SABIC said, with the first phase expected to reduce carbon emissions from the production site by 60%.

While the local mayor's office said the company would “convert it [the steam cracker] to run on hydrogen”, SABIC officially only spoke of a feasibility study in the second phase of the overhaul to look into that possibility.

“The conversion would also aid the Government’s green energy ambitions, as hydrogen is a natural by-product of the cracking process,” said the mayor’s office.

Questions regarding the future of the site arose when the company announced in October 2020 that it had begun preparations to permanently shut some of the Wilton assets while “opportunities were explored to strengthen” the Teesside site.

The cracker, which also has the capacity to produce 415,000 tonnes/year of propylene, has been offline ever since.

For months, sources have suggested that the cracker would either not be brought back online or that it could be back in operation by 2023.

The butadiene (BD) extraction unit at the site was also taken offline in September 2020, and sources widely expect it to be one of the units to have been permanently shut down.

Aside from the cracker and BD unit, SABIC operates a low-density polyethylene (LDPE) production facility at Wilton, a more recent addition to the complex.

The local Member of Parliament (MP) in the UK’s House of Commons said the investments by SABIC would secure jobs for decades.

“This is genuinely fantastic news for Wilton Site and for the wider Teesside Industrial Cluster … Hundreds of millions of pounds invested in the site, a secure future for decades to come, and creating and protecting over 1000 jobs,” said Jacob Young.

“After years of industrial decline, we are seeing a revival in our industry on Teesside – spurred on by our Freeport and the decision on Net Zero Teesside – and I could not be more buzzing about what our future holds and the amazing opportunities we are creating here.”

Front page picture: SABIC's Teeside facilities
Source: SABIC

Follow Nel Weddle on Twitter