Report - - Hickson Welch Chemicals Castleford March 2010 | Industrial Sites | 28DaysLater.co.uk

Report - Hickson Welch Chemicals Castleford March 2010


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28DL Full Member
So a sunny Spring day saw me meet up with Mendo and Sal in 'That Yorkshire,' we have tried to avoid this county if at all possible due to harsh memories of previous forays across the border, most of these incidents have been based around local inbred hicks being unable to perform one of the following actions.... think, speak, drive, cook or see where they're going.... sometimes it's been a combination of a few of these. Anyway, beack to the sunny Spring morning, we met up earlier than is decent to be up and about on a Saturday, exchanged a few pleasantries, introduced Mendo to the delights of beef jerky then ditched the cars and headed off to our target for the day...... Hicksons Welch Chemicals... Well what a little gem this place is, it's pretty much got everything ranging from palisade, barbed wire, surrounded by water on three sides, partially demolished buildings, a phosgene processing plant (seriously.. google it) huge distillation towers, see through catwalks, creaky see through catwalks, rotten 'crispy' see through catwalks, control rooms, laboratories..... I could go on but I'll regail you with some history and pictures instead.

This is what they say about themselves...

We are an independent chemical manufacturing company. We specialise in organic chemistry and offer contract manufacturing services and a range of fine chemical intermediates to the crop science, health & nutrition and specialty markets.

Hickson & Welch specialises in the synthesis of organic chemical intermediates and has two principal businesses:

Contract Manufacture and

Fine Chemical Intermediates

Both businesses operate from a 74 hectare site at Castleford, West Yorkshire, which has an efficient and flexible manufacturing infrastructure and first-class safety and environmental performance.

Hickson and Welsh

Probably the very best chemical manufacturer we can recommend. We also supply in organic chemical intermediates and custom synthesis for crop science products. We have the experience, expertise and facilities to produce almost any intermediate no matter how complex it may be.

Examples of our product capabilities include:

* Sulfonyl chlorides and sulfonamides
* Isocyanates and sulfonyl isocyanates
* S-Triazines
* Pyrimidines
* Pyridines
* Thiols and sulfides
* Aromatic amines
* Nitro aromatics
* Acid chlorides

80 Years Of Chemical Manufacturing Expertise

* 1915 - Ernest Hickson built a plant for TNT and picric acid production
* 1920's - Switched production to nitrotoluenes for dyes and pigments
* 1940's - Large scale chlorination Largest UK producer of DDT
* 1950's - Ceased DDT. Phosgenation to produce ureas. Optical Brightening agents
* 1960's - Expansion of nitrotoluenes
* Tax Accountants
* 1970's - Contract manufacturing investment
* 1990's - Expansion of hydrogenation and phosgenation facilities
* 2000 - Acquisition by Arch Chemicals
There was an accident here hence this HSE report....

The fire at Hickson & Welch Limited, Castleford. 21st September 1992
Accident summary

A clean out operation of a batch still, known as “60 still baseâ€, was organised in order to remove residues. This vessel had never been cleaned since it was installed in the nitrotoluenes area in 1961.

An operator dipped the sludge to examine it and reported the sludge as gritty with the consistency of soft butter to management. No sample was sent for analysis nor was the atmosphere inside the vessel checked for a flammable vapour. It was mistakenly thought that the material was a thermally stable tar.

In order to soften the sludge, which was estimated to have a depth of 34 cm (14 in), steam was applied to the bottom battery. Advice was given not to exceed 90°C.

Employees started the clean out operation using a metal rake. The material was tar-like and had liquid entrained in it. Approximately one hour into the cleaning process a longer rake was used to reach further into the still.

The vessel’s temperature gauge in the control room was reported to be reading 48°C, instructions were given to isolate the steam.

At approximately 13:20 hrs a number of employees involved in the raking left the still base to get on with other tasks. One person left on the scaffold had stopped raking and noticed a blue light, which turned instantly to an orange flame. As he leapt from the scaffold an incandescent conical jet erupted from the manhole. This projected horizontally towards the Meissner control building. A vertical jet of burning vapours shot out of the top rear vent to the height of the distillation column nearby.

The jet fire lasted for approximately one minute before subsiding to localised fires around the manlid and buildings nearby. The force of the jet destroyed the scaffold, in the process, propelling the manhole cover into the centre of the Meissner control building. The jet severely damaged this building and then impacted on the north face of the main office block causing a number of fires to start inside the building.

A total of 22 fire appliances and over 100 fire fighters attended the incident.

Another source reports the following;
In 1915 Hickson and Partners moved into Castleford where they produced TNT until the end of the Great War in 1918. After this they changed to the production of dyes and the processing of acids.
Just before noon on the 4th. of July 1930 an explosion flattened the factory killing 13 workers and injuring 32 others. Three hundred nearby houses were made uninhabitable and windows and roofs throughout the town were damaged. Shortly afterwards Ernest Hickson died and the company went into liquidation.
British Pathe News reported it as "Castleford. 'Like an Earthquake'. 12 killed, hundreds injured and rendered homeless by disastrous Chemical factory explosion."
From the ashes Ernest's son, Bernard and Colbeck Welch created a new company. In 1931 'Hickson and Welch' was born.
At 1:20 p.m. on the 21st. of September 1992 the plant exploded once more and five employees died. If it had not been lunchtime then the toll could have been even greater than the 1930 explosion as it occurred near an office building.

This does not seem to have been the safest place to work, in fact as much as it's quite pretty I think I'm move away from there if I lived there. It's shut now and being demolished but they still seem to have the same happy go lucky modus operandi that has blown the place up in the past. There are bottles of chemicals in partially demolished research buildings simply marked as 'unknown' with referrence to their contents, things like this hardly fill you with confidence.

Anyway this was a top day and I think I'll be going back but it's a big site and there's lots of up and down ladders so it kinda wears you out.

Ok, on with some pictures....