Asahi Glass Company, ETFE Plant, Thornton-Cleveleys, Lancashire, UK, United Kingdom
The Asahi Glass Company (AGC), founded in 1907, has had a long investment relationship with the northwest of England, having taken over the ICI Hillhouse site in 1999 as part of the acquisition of ICI's fluorinated resin business (the UK business is called AGC Chemicals Europe).
The UK site at Thornton-Cleveleys in Lancashire, near Blackpool, which produces fluoropolymers such as polytetrafluroethylene (PTFE), is the largest that the company operates outside Japan.
In October 2005, AGC made the decision to construct a new plant on the Lancashire site to produce ETFE (ethylene tetrafluoroethylene) or Fluon, a fluorocarbon polymer with excellent chemical and heat resistance, electrical properties and mechanical strength that is widely used in the construction industry. Many new buildings use the material, particularly new stadia.
It is also used for wire and cable insulation for automotive and aerospace applications, production of films and as material for the semiconductor industry.
The world demand for ETFE polymers has been growing at 15% a year, so the ETFE plant was a response to satisfy the new market. In February 2006 ground was broken for the new plant and construction began.
Investment into AGC's new Lancashire-based facility
The FCH-1 plant constructed adjacent to the existing PTFE plant was officially opened and came onstream in April 2007, having required an investment of £15m to construct and outfit.
The company employed around 15 extra personnel to work in the new plant alongside the 135 existing employees already on the site. The plant has, to a certain extent, had the effect of assuring the future viability of the site.
During the planning stage the following agencies helped Asahi Glass plan the new facility: Wyre Borough Council, Lancashire Economic Partnership, the Northwest Development Agency and Chemicals Northwest.
The FCH-1 plant was based in Europe to be close to major customers for the ETFE products and to relieve some of the pressure on the main production centres in Asia.
The plant supplied ETFE film for the roof of the national stadium (Birds Nest) for the Beijing Olympics (50,000m²). It also supplied about 300,000m² of ETFE film for the Beijing National Aquatic Centre (Watercube), again for the 2008 Olympics.
ETFE is a polymer resin that can be spun into a thin and durable film and then packed into rolls for use to make into sheets or inflate into pillows for architectural use.
Contractors involved in the Asahi Glass Company's largest project outside of Asia
K Home International (KHI) of Thornaby and Mowlem Engineering of Middlesbrough were the contractors for the project, having formed a risk-reward partnership for the design and construction of the new plant.
KHI was initially given the front-end engineering and design contract for the new plant and was later given a further contract for engineering design, procurement and construction.