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‘TIS BUSINESS AS USUAL IN YORKSHIRE Brexit looms, and in the wake of a disastrous (for the current government) election, the UK finds itself on an unsteady footing. Yet amid apparent chaos, it’s ‘business as usual’ for the chemicals industry.


orkshire has acquired the nickname of ‘God's Own County’. Nestling in the North of England, the region includes the Moors and Dales, and part of the Peak District National Park. Yet alongside the landscape for which it is famous, Yorkshire sat at the heart of England’s industrial revolution. It has a long history of heavy industries (e.g. coal mining, steel) and 100 years ago there were 300 textile mills in Bradford alone. Now, the region is home to the chemical industries: fine and speciality, polymers and composites, pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, bio-resources, petrochemicals, biofuels and low-carbon materials. Data suggest that the area hosts as many as 1,400 companies in the supply chain for chemical-using industries. Sarah Harding, Editor of Speciality Chemicals Magazine, toured Yorkshire at the end of June to discuss how the industry is performing under the current economic and political climate.

Similarly, Airedale Chemical, a distributor and manufacturer based in Cross Hills, near Bradford, hailed from textiles. Daniel Marr, Head of Marketing, explained, “We have a history selling dyes into the textile industry, of which Yorkshire – especially Bradford – was the epicentre.” In addition, Derek Gray, Sales Director at Biolink, a company that provides biocides to the agricultural industry, points to Yorkshire’s vast arable land. Traditionally, the livestock industry (including agrochemicals) concentrates itself where grain is grown, keeping transport costs to a minimum. Stephen Moore, Customer Relationship Manager at Grotech, a contract manufacturer in Goole, said that ICI used to be big in the area. When ICI shut down, its expertise gave rise to new companies. Paul Bottomley, Commercial Director at Vickers Laboratories, a chemical manufacturing, packing and logistics company, agreed that most companies grew from the expertise at larger companies that used to operate in the area.

Why Yorkshire? An obvious question is why so many companies are based in Yorkshire. Richard Smith, Managing Director of Surfachem, a distribution company based in Leeds, believes the answer lies in historical links to the textile industry. “The chemistries and technologies for wool dyes and auxiliaries provided a backbone of synthetic techniques that were enhanced to develop new products and markets for speciality chemicals,” he explained. Stephenson Group, now a manufacturer of personal care products based in Horsforth, Leeds is a prime example. “In the 1850s we were suppliers to the wool processing industry across the North,” explained CEO Jamie Bentley. When Croda, a chemicals manufacturer, was founded in 1925, the company made lanolin from wool grease. With the textile industry booming in Yorkshire at the time there was plentiful supply of this raw material, which had been proven to be an effective rust preventative. World War II brought contracts for items such as camouflage oils, insect repellents and gun cleaning oils and, after the war, the company expanded into new markets. Croda now has 67 operations in 36 countries, with a hugely diverse portfolio.

14 Speciality Chemicals Magazine 37.04 August 2017

BASF’s David Calder, Site Manager. The Bradford site produces water treatment chemicals, and products for the paper-making and oilfield industries

Speciality Chemicals Magazine August 2017  

Volume 37 Issue 04

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