The Welsh Bromine Works is an old industrial ruin in North Wales. Bromine is a very useful chemical, and has many uses. These include; pharmaceuticals, medical, agriculture, dyes, flame retardants and water treatment. 120 employees worked here when it was operational.
These photos were taken on two visits; firstly in 2016, and subsequently in 2019.
Notable incidents and closure
The Welsh Bromine Works had several incidents in the 1990s. There was a large fire, which caused more than £6 million in damage. 2 years later, toxic bromine gas was released from the plant injuring five people. Residents of the nearby village were told to stay indoors. The HSE and Environment Agency prosecuted the company for the associated legal breaches.
The plant was decommissioned and decontaminated in the mid-2000s. Much of the site was demolished soon after, but several interesting buildings still remain.
History of the Bromine Works
The plant initially used the extracted bromine in the production of Dibromoethane (DBE); a key component in leaded petrol. DBE fuel additive was used as an antiknock agent. The chemical was transported by rail in tankers, via an on-site depot connected to the rail network. Prior to 1960, bromine was sold in glass bottles and shipped by road or rail in wooden crates. The bottling and packing of these bottles were very labour-intensive.
The plant would slow, and eventually halt, the production of DBE as leaded petrol sales declined. A new sulphuric acid plant was built on-site in the 1960s. At this time production focus switched to bromine as the main salable product. With the new plant, the production of bromine increased by 50%. Consequently, higher-volume transport methods were required. New 7.5-ton and 15-ton payload rail tankers were used to bulk-ship bromine to customers in the UK and Europe.
A new seawater recirculation plant (A) was added to the site towards the end of the 1960s. Initially, bromine output increased but the new plant was plagued with problems. Faulty gas analyzers were initially the culprit. Subsequently, the seawater intakes became blocked during the frequent winter/spring storms. Special equipment was installed to keep the pumps clear. Additionally, two new seawater recirculation plants, B and C, were added in the early 1970s.
In the 1980s, the plant was adapted to produce Hydrogen Bromide (HBr) gas and liquid. This HBr gas was used to produce other bromine-based chemicals, which were then shipped to customers in drums. The rail tankers were no longer required, as these drums could be shipped by trucks. The rail depot closed in the mid-1990s.