Decades of world-leading technology innovation at Saltend Chemicals Park has been recognised with a prestigious award.
The Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) honoured the chemicals park by granting it the rare distinction of a National Chemical Landmark blue plaque, which now has pride of place on a plinth outside the site’s Visitor Reception.
The accolade comes as the BP-managed chemicals cluster, on the north bank of the Humber east of Hull, celebrates 100 years of industrial operations on the site.
The RSC is the UK’s professional body for chemical scientists and is dedicated to advancing excellence in the chemical sciences.
The National Chemical Landmark scheme recognises sites that have made a significant contribution to British society and UK Plc.
Saltend has had research and development facilities for more than 60 years, since the first process development laboratory was founded in 1948.
Over the years the research centre, now known as the Hull Research and Technology Centre (HRTC), has had a proud record developing new, world-scale chemicals production processes, most of which have also been commercialised at Saltend.
These innovations have enabled the creation of thousands of jobs at Saltend over the years and sustained a hotbed of high-level scientific and technical skills on site.
Breakthrough technologies developed at Saltend also enable the commercial production of chemicals that are the building blocks for consumer goods found on supermarket shelves worldwide.
The RSC award citation recognises 100 years of innovation in supplying the UK with transportation fuels and base chemicals, adding: “Saltend has uniquely combined in one location the research, development and commercialisation of numerous new processes for the manufacture of organic acids, alcohols and their derivatives.”
The plaque was presented by Prof Dave Garner, Royal Society of Chemistry Past President, to Dr Scott Roberts, BP Petrochemicals Director of Research, who is also responsible for HRTC; Kirsty Clode, Plant Manager for BP European Acetyls at Saltend; and Dr Mark Howard, Vice President of BP Chemicals’ Conversion Technology Centre, most of which is based at Saltend.
Prof Garner said: “The Royal Society of Chemistry’s Chemical Landmark scheme recognises places where chemical developments have made significant contributions to health, wealth or the quality of life of the nation.
“Saltend Chemicals Park merits such recognition because of the major advances that have taken place there during its distinguished 100-year history, leading to the formation of a world-class centre for the production of chemicals.”
Dr Roberts said: “This honour recognises the longevity of technology innovation here. It’s one thing to have an innovation at a certain point in time; it’s quite another to have continuing research and innovation over more than 60 years.
“There are many other places around the world where BP have research centres or manufacturing centres, but the amalgam of manufacturing and research activities here is unique. Innovations are developed here and used here, as well as globally.
“We have the full range, from small scale catalyst discovery to large-scale pilot plant facilities. We also have engineering and design functions on site, so it’s a technology one-stop shop.”
Dr Howard said the site had been a place of “reinvestment and reinvention over many decades” and innovation at Saltend was “more significant to BP’s global business than ever before”.
One ground-breaking technology developed at Saltend, CativaTM, is used to produce the majority of BP’s acetic acid worldwide and around a quarter of total global production.
More recent innovations include the recently announced SaaBreTMtechnology, which is a potential game-changer as it enables the production of acetic acid from a different feedstock.
Dr Howard added: “In addition to this being a major UK manufacturing site for 100 years, this site has also been the source of new technologies and technology support for BP’s operations worldwide.
“That is little known, but is a great source of pride to our people here, as well as of huge significance to BP’s petrochemicals business.”
The presentation formed part of a week-long series of events celebrating the centenary of the Saltend site and looking forward to its future, under the theme “Great history, great people, great future”.
Before the presentation, present and past HRTC employees and guests enjoyed a lunch of fish and chips, celebrating BP’s production at Saltend of acetic acid, which, in heavily diluted form, is commonly recognised as household vinegar.
BP at Saltend is the largest single producer of acetic acid in Europe, producing around half a million tonnes annually. Acetic acid plays an important part in the manufacture of everyday items such as photographic film, fibres, washing powder, drink bottles and food packaging.