Tuesday, September 08, 2009

The silent demise of the British chemical industry

Largely unreported in the MSM the British chemical industry is being bought up from over seas and now some is being shut down.

Vast new chemical complexes in the Middle East are being built ( many designed in the UK ), but not reported.

In the north east at the old ICI Wilton complex the new owners, Dow, of the Ethylene Oxide plant are shutting it down, its the last one in the UK and moving production to Kuwait. (new plant opening soon ) So what I hear you ask - well chemical plants don't exist in isolation. They are fed by other plants and their products are required by other manufacturers.

A plant that uses say, excess steam, that closes may also make the plant that produces the excess steam uneconomic and a domino effect kicks in.

In Wilton and Billingham vast chemical complexes existed, but their British owners have sold or are now more. The Saudi's, Dutch and Germans now operate them, and they are very much biased in terms of production from their how countries.

When I left school I chose to work in the Chemical Industry as it was one of the only manufacturing sectors which was strong. ICI, Shell, BP and others all lead the world. Now ICI is no more and what's left of its plants are owned by various people, Shell is looking at selling its last UK refinery and cutting its workforce by 15% next week and its just a matter of time before BP becomes a US company in fact as it is in business terms already.

How much marketing and media studies is the UK going to have to sell the world to pay for all the things we buy abroad now ( ie nearly everything ) ?

The capture of the imagination of the country by the green suicide lobby even extends to The Institution of Chemical Engineers. In their house magazine the editorial; talks about the lose of this capital intensive bulk chemicals production being inveitable and that the green jobs will come to save us and new high tech plants.

Well the Saudi's & Kuwaitis are building those too, on a price no object basis. They have large populations they need to buy industries for and the money to do it.

And some the country that gave the world the industrial revolution is hollowed out.

There are lots of engineering in this country 40+ who cut their teeth in our chemical industry and the North Sea. Many earn money for this country by consultancy, working for UK engineering contractors and working aboard, but they won't be replaced ( though of course the courses will still run at Universities, but there will be few jobs for their graduates ) and just like the last TV set to be manufactured in the UK - where TV was invented - the capability will pass away into history.

What is it we do that the world wants to keep shipping electronic goods and food to us for again ?

Lets hope those nice people in the middle east never want to impose sanctions on us, because soon we will be reliant on them for more than just crude oil.


Wyrdtimes said...

It's tragic.

Happening all over my brother works for Rolls Royce aero and they're shipping out jobs to Germany.

But isn't this all freemarket toryism taken to it's logical conclusion?

What we need is a healthy does of protectionism - i.e. the government should be protecting our domestic industries rather than allowing them to be sold off and jobs shipped abroad.

Personally I see home rule for England as the best possible thing that could happen in this country and a new government that puts the English first.

Man in a Shed said...

You are of course right it is the unilateral implementation of free markets, when others are making decisions for other reasons.

That's failed for the European gas industry, leaving us vulnerable and it could here also.

I know people who will argue that even if countries in the middle east are "buying out jobs" that we will get their products subsideised and can sell them other stuff ( see green heat of technology delusion ). And you can no doubt write an economic paper to prove the point. But what it missed is a strategic veiwpoint.

We keep an arms industry - not because were good at it ( it would be cheaper to buy American, Russian or even may the Lord have mercy on us French ) but because keeping the capacity to do these things is an important part of our defence.

Giving up complete areas of economic capability is to be naively trusting and a dangerous and unpredictable world.

So I have to agree your right to point out the contradiction.