The Octel Chemical Factory in Amlwch, Anglesey, North Wales was once the largest bromine plant of its kind in the world. It was responsible for extracting bromine from the sea which was then used as an anti knock additive in unleaded petrol. The chemical factory was partly demolished in 2005 and suffered an arson attack in 2017 which destroyed one of the rooms and left the first floor damaged in the main admin building.
The chemical factory started production in 1953 and was originally chosen for the surrounding sea, which offered depth, strong tidal flows and gulf stream temperatures, making it an ideal location to extract bromine from. The site was owned by Octel until 1989 when the production of bromine chemicals became more important and Great Lakes Chemical Corporation took over with their specialisation in bromine chemistry. The plant ceased production in 2004, when the owners made the decision to source from the Dead Sea in Israel due to a much higher concentration of bromine levels, and it’s been in an abandoned state ever since.
- Production starts at the chemical factory on 11th November 1953.
- In 1958 the plant suffered from a severe storm with 100mph winds, which forced seaweed up through the main pumps and as a result stopped the distribution of sea water for 3 days.
- On 23rd May 1970 the Britannia railway bridge across the Menai Straights caught fire. Two youths are believed to have accidentally started it while using a lit paper to illuminate the tube while looking for birds nests and bats. The damage resulted in the cessation of the railway for transport of chemicals.
- American company Great Lakes Chemical Corporation take over the Octel chemical factory.
- A fire broke out and destroyed two 30 metre towers, badly damaged one of the BOT2’s that were responsible for collecting the bromine chemicals and injured 5 workers.
- A release of bromine in July 1997 injured 5 people and kept local residents confined indoors. The company was fined £180,000 for the industrial accident.
- On 31st December 1999 a complete planned shutdown of the chemical factory was required due to fears of possible implications of a “millennium bug” affecting the process instruments, but work started up again shortly after checks were complete.
- Great Lakes decide to close Amlwch site in 2003, which had 65 parts per million of bromine, compared to the new source in the Dead Sea, Israel, which had 14,000 parts per million.
- Amlwch chemical factory stopped production in March 2004 and decommissioning and decontamination took another 9 months
- Canatxx purchase site in 2007 and announce plans to produce a liquid natural gas storage plants at the site, but the plans never came to fruition and the chemical factory remained abandoned.
- The chemical factory suffered an arson attack in 2017 that destroyed one of the office rooms and damaged the whole first floor level of the main admin building.
- Demolition began on the site in 2019.