Spades in for major investment at East Yorkshire chemical plant

Construction is starting on a significant new production line which will double capacity at Mitsubishi Chemical UK in Hull.

The investment, which runs into hundreds of millions of pounds, is in response to demand for SoarnoL™, the company’s brand name for a grade of Ethylene Vinyl Co-Polymer (EVOH) which is primarily used in packaging to extend the shelf life of food.

The ground-breaking ceremony at the company’s Saltend Chemicals Park site, saw more than 40 guests, including project members, company officials and local councillors, witness spades turn the earth. Later in the day, a lid on a barrel of sake was smashed in a traditional ceremony to acknowledge the company’s Japanese ownership and roots.

The new line is expected to be operational by mid 2025 and will create at least 30 direct jobs, with many more in the supply chain.

The Hull facility, which opened in 2002, has seen a steady and significant increase in demand for SoarnoL as food manufacturers seek packaging with a lower environmental impact that can be recycled.

The innovative product, which is also used in the medical and agricultural sectors, mainly comprises carbon, oxygen and hydrogen, is colourless and odourless and acts as a barrier layer. It preserves flavour and freshness through use in items such as the protective film on ready meals, squeezy sauce bottles, baby food packaging and meat packaging. Other applications include cosmetic products such as cream and toothpaste tubes, plastic fuel tanks, animal feed and underfloor heating.

Managing director Peter des Forges said that the ground breaking marked a new chapter for the company in Hull and represented a significant milestone following a huge amount of work behind the scenes.

“This ceremonial and symbolic celebration is a public thank you for the hard work of our site project team and support of colleagues from the wider business. It also demonstrates our commitment to the area.

“Once the new line is operational, the majority of the increased production will service the needs of our customers in more than 40 countries who continue to explore ways they can reduce waste and meet environmental targets.”

The business was formerly owned by Japanese company Nippon Gohsei, with Hull being chosen as its location due to proximity to the ports and availability of raw materials from neighbouring businesses at Saltend. It became wholly owned by Mitsubishi Chemical Group in November 2016 and changed its name to Mitsubishi Chemical UK Ltd in April 2021.