MORE than 200 jobs are under threat - and a further 2,000 in the supply chain - as chemicals firm INEOS announced plans to consult on the closure of its plant at Seal Sands, Teesside.

The company blamed 'decades of significant under-investment' by previous owners which has seen INEOS invest £200m since it took over in 2008 to try to bring the acrylonitrile facility up to environmental standards. 

It said 'every penny of profit' had been ploughed back into the plant to improve it but 'the company is of the view that nothing more can be done to ensure that operations are both safe and economically viable'.

"It would require another £200 million, just to meet INEOS standards and environmental regulations," it said.

The company said it would be consulting on any viable alternatives to closure but if it does close it hopes to redeploy some of its staff to other operations.

In a statement, it added: "The acrylonitrile process needs careful management and involves handling significant quantities of hazardous material. The company feels it would not be possible to guarantee the long-term safety of our employees or our neighbours through continued operation of the plant and have thus reluctantly concluded that we should consider the option to close."

Chief executive officer Paul Ovedrment said the process was being carried out 'with a heavy heart', but said it was 'almost impossible to play catch-up'.

Alex Cunningham, MP for Stockton North, said: “The proposal by INEOS Nitriles to close its acrylonitrile manufacturing plant at Seal Sands is an extremely disappointing one, and will be huge blow to everyone who works on the site and to the Teesside economy as a whole.

“It is vitally important that the workforce is supported throughout the consultation process and helped into alternative employment where possible. My office is ready to help those workers who might need it.

“I have also been in discussion with INEOS Nitriles to see what we can do to get the financial support they need to continue, including the option of requesting Government assistance if necessary. If the Government is serious about the

“Northern Powerhouse” and boosting the economic potential of areas such as the Tees Valley, supporting plants such as the one at Seal Sands is a must.”