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British Industrial History

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Synthetic Ammonia and Nitrates

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Synthetic Ammonia and Nitrates Ltd, of Billingham

WWI The British Government realised that the country was exposed to the danger of not having sufficient supplies of fixed nitrogen to make explosives, so initiated a programme of research; preparations were made to build a production plant at Billingham based on the Haber process but this work was suspended at the Armistice. The government subsequently asked Brunner, Mond and Co to take over this work.

1920 The company was formed by Brunner, Mond and Co, which purchased the part-built Billingham plant at an agreed price, and employed the key scientists and engineers. These staff visited full-scale plant in Germany, USA and France, as well as Dr Maxted's experimental plant at Gas Developments Ltd. The Billingham plant would produce 100t/d of pure ammonia. It was hoped that farmers would adopt ammonium sulphate as a plant fertiliser. Explosive Trades Ltd would take their requirements for ammonia from the plant and would invest in plant to convert the ammonia into nitric acid for manufacture of explosives, guaranteeing the country's supplies of explosives[1] [2]

1921 A pilot plant was erected at the Runcorn plant of Castner-Kellner Alkali Co which proved the process[3]

1923 December: The plant was put into production. Work began on expanding the plant and producing further salts of ammonia other than sulphate[4] [5]

1926 Became part of ICI, ultimately becoming the Billingham Division.

1928 Considerable expansion of plant at Billingham increased capacity and produced new products[6]

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. The Times, Jun 05, 1920
  2. The Engineer 1920/06/25, p 664
  3. The Times, Jun 06, 1924
  4. The Times, Apr 23, 1924
  5. The Times, May 26, 1924
  6. The Times, Apr 09, 1929