A GREEN energy project in the North East worth £250 million is set to be approved by a Saudi Arabian state-owned petrochemical company.

It is understood Sabic is close to approving a major investment deal which will support thousands of jobs on Teesside, and create hundreds more, following months of discussions with British ministers.

If it goes ahead, Sabic, a subsidiary of oil titan Saudi Aramco, will pay to restart its hydrocarbon “cracker” at Wilton in the Tees Valley and convert it to run on hydrogen.

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It will be second major investment in the region from the oil rich Middle Eastern state in as many weeks after Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, chaired by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, bought Newcastle United for £305m.

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said he was looking forward to meeting with Sabic chief executive Yousef bin Abdullah Al-Benyan at this week’s Global Investment Summit to make the case for further investment and ‘strengthen the ties the company already has with our area’.

Mr Houchen said: “We’re already leading the way in clean energy and sectors that are becoming cleaner, healthier and safer – not only in the way things are done, but in terms of the well-paid, good-quality jobs that they are creating.

“That doesn’t mean we should sit back, expecting further investments to come to us, we have to get out there and show these businesses what we have to offer.

“That’s why I’ll be banging the drum for Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool at events like these, to secure further investment as we throw our doors open to the global community more than ever, setting out our stall on the international stage.

“I’m looking forward to speaking to the global CEO of Sabic, a hugely familiar firm to many in Teesside, to make the case for further investment in our area and strengthen the ties the company already has with our area.

“While this is about boosting the economy, putting ourselves at the heart of innovation and clean energy for the whole of the UK and securing more jobs, it’s also about less pollution.

“As we harness hydrogen, offshore and carbon capture industries, we’re also driving forward an environment that, like these industries, is also cleaner, healthier and safer.”

The cracker, which is Europe’s second largest, also known as the Olefins 6 plant, breaks down hydrocarbons into chemicals such as ethylene which are then used in other processes.

It has been shut down for over a year but the conversion is expected to create about 300 jobs and support thousands more.

Conservative MP for Redcar, Jacob Young, who formerly worked as an operator at Sabic on Wilton said: “I’m increasingly hopeful that we can get this over the line and see a new lease of life for Sabic on Teesside.

“The guys on site there have been through an incredibly tough time over the last 18 months, seeing some parts of Sabic Wilton footprint close for good.

“However, I’m optimistic for the site’s future. The cracker sits within our Freeport - the UKs largest Freeport - which will hopefully provide Sabic with the necessary incentives to invest further here.

“Having spent nine years working and training in Teesside’s chemical industry, some of those at SABIC, I know how interconnected all our industry is and how critical Olefins 6 is to our wider industrial presence.”

It is understood that Mr Al-Benyan will meet with Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng and investment minister Lord Grimstone, at the summit before confirming the investment this week.

The plan is thought to have formed part of wider trade and investment talks between Mr Kwarteng and his Saudi counterpart Majid Al Qasabi earlier this year.

Last week, Amnesty International urged fans, players and staff to study Saudi Arabia’s poor human rights record following the controversial acquisition of Newcastle United.

Yesterday, the club played Spurs at St James’ Park, their first game in the Premier League under their new owners, in front of a sell-out crowd.

The NewcastleGateshead Initiative has said the Magpies’ takeover would provide a much-needed boost to the regional economy.

Sarah Green, Chief Executive at NewcastleGateshead Initiative, said: “St James’ Park and our home football club is for many, the beating heart of Newcastle and is integral to our identity as a destination to visit and enjoy.

“It’s important to acknowledge and understand the impact football has on the visitor economy, by encouraging overseas visitors, extending the peak tourism season, and boosting hotel occupancy and footfall to bars and restaurants.

“We’re already seeing the positive impact the major financial investment will bring to the city, with the first sold-out game in 29 months, which will be welcomed by our tourism and hospitality businesses and support the recovery and growth of the sector.

“Newcastle city centre is buzzing once again. The investment has reignited the club, its fans and will be transformational to the profile of our city on an international scale.”

Jonathan Walker, policy director, North East England Chamber of Commerce said, the Saudi investment would bring success and stability to the club.

He said: “The club is part of the fabric of Newcastle and brings huge economic benefits to the city and the region.

“Businesses across the North East will be looking forward to working with the new owners to ensure that any improvement in results on the pitch provide long term economic benefits off it.”

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