Hundreds of jobs at risk under plan to close Cheshire fertiliser plant

A fertiliser manufacturer has revealed plans to close its plant in Cheshire, putting 283 jobs at risk.

CF Fertilisers wants to close its manufacturing plant at Ince, near Chester, to focus on operations at its Billingham facility in Teesside.

The company said that Billingham is the largest ammonia, ammonium nitrate and carbon dioxide production facility in the UK, while Ince has not produced ammonia since September last year.

CF Fertilisers, a subsidiary of US-based CF Industries, said the restructure could also see another 88 jobs lost, including 33 at Billingham.

It hopes to avoid some of these by redeploying workers within the company.

Many industries have struggled with the rising price of raw materials in recent months and, for fertiliser producers, the material in demand is natural gas.

Natural gas is the primary fuel source used in the production of ammonia and CF Fertilisers said that price forecasts present a “constant challenge to the sustainability of current operations”.

The plants at Billingham and Ince both ceased production in September last year due to the high costs, with Billingham re-starting that month after a deal was reached with the UK government

‘Considerable challenges to long-term sustainability’.

Brett Nightingale, managing director of CF Fertilisers UK, said: “The people and facilities that make up CF Fertilisers UK are part of a proud, 100-year history of providing customers in the UK with products vital to the country’s food security and industrial activity.

“However, as a high-cost producer in an intensely competitive global industry, we see considerable challenges to long-term sustainability from our current operational approach.

“Following a strategic review of our business, we believe that the best way to continue our legacy of serving customers in the UK is to operate only the Billingham manufacturing facility moving forward while addressing cost pressures throughout our business.

“We expect to begin collective redundancy consultation with union and other employee representatives shortly. We intend to provide our team with all possible support through what we recognise will be a very challenging time for them.”

Unite regional co-ordinating officer Mick Chalmers said: “The proposed closure of the Ince factory with the loss of around 350 jobs is a devastating blow for our members and the Cheshire economy.

“Unite will be entering into consultation with CF Fertilisers in due course. We will be demanding that all other alternatives are seriously considered to keep the factory open and retain jobs.

“Unite will be offering maximum support to our members at this difficult time.”

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