HUNDREDS of North-East chemicals jobs have been secured following a major investment to join the shale gas revolution.

Sabic on Teesside is converting its famous cracker plant so it is capable of running on ethane that will be imported from the US.

The move will cut the plant’s costs significantly and help to safeguard the long term future of Sabic in the region.

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The company employs 600 people directly on Teesside and more than 400 contractors. In addition, it is estimated to support 4,000 jobs across the North-East supply chain.

Sabic declined to reveal how much the upgrade will cost, but it is being backed with £9m from the Government’s Regional Growth Fund (RGF).

The conversion and construction of a large gas storage tank will be completed in 2016.

Middlesbrough-born Greg Clark, the Universities, Science and Cities Minister, said: “This investment shows real confidence in Teesside and the UK economy and is great news for local employment.

"It is a significant example of how we can use the RGF to support businesses to deliver their plans for growth. It also gives me particular pleasure as someone who grew up a stone’s throw away from Wilton.”

The cracker makes products used in a wide range of goods, from plastic bottles to tyres.

Yousef Al-Benyan, Sabic executive vice president, chemicals, said, “This project reflects SABIC’s strong determination to take advantage of cutting edge technology in creating new sources of competitive feedstock and energy that will allow the company to continue to build a sustainable business and deliver on its long-term vision.

"Our long-term focus is to have a business that stays profitable not only in the European region, but across our global markets.”