By Anthony Clark, Plastics & Rubber Weekly
Wilton, UK -- Dow intends to close its ethylene oxide and glycol (EOEG) production facility at Wilton by the end of January 2010. The site employs 55 people.
"Decisions to shutdown a facility are not taken lightly," said Malcolm Wilson, Dow's site leader. "A comprehensive review of potential options was conducted, which included seeking a buyer for the site and engagement with industry leaders, regional and government groups to identify alternatives to a shutdown.
"A workable option was not identified [and] without an economically viable alternative it is with great regret we have to announce our intention to stop production at the Wilton site by the end of January 2010."
The news was "devastating," said the Unite trade union, which warned that both the local community and the UK chemicals industry would be badly affected.
"It cannot be stressed enough that this plant stands at the heart of a strategic business for the UK," said Unite's national officer for the chemical sector, Phil McNulty. "[It] doesn't just provide skilled work for hundreds of people in Teesside where decent jobs are becoming scarce, but the product it produces is also vital to the enduring success of the UK chemical sector. Its closure would cause a runaway reaction across the industry and put thousands of jobs at risk."
According to Dow several factors contribute to the intention to close the EOEG plant, including the site's disadvantage in input costs.
In addition, demand and profit margins for the site's outputs, particularly monoethylene glycol (MEG), began to soften in early 2008. MEG economics have been significantly worsened by the global economic recession, further placing the Wilton site at a disadvantage, added the chemicals giant.
"The decision to close the site is extremely difficult. Dow Wilton employees have a global reputation for excellence in terms of teamwork plus safe and reliable operations," said Lee Christens, global business director Dow EOEG. "However, potential closure of the plant has become necessary, given the unsustainable business conditions the facility faces."
Unite has pledged to do all in its power to resist the closure, urging the government to take a leading role to save jobs and preserve the estimated £560 million ($902 million) Wilton contributes to the UK balance of payments every year.
"This site is at the beginning of a production process which ultimately results in so many of the goods on the shelves in our shops," continued McNulty. "We simply cannot lose it. We need urgent assistance from government to ensure we can find an alternative owner so that we can safeguard these skilled jobs and defend this sector."