Flying the flag for Teesside steel making

A hundred years after Teesside steel was chosen to build the Sydney Harbour Bridge, another global landmark project is relying on the ingenuity and expertise found thousands of miles away in the North East of England. 

On 24 March 1924 the contract for the Sydney Bridge was awarded to Middlesbrough company Dorman Long, one of a number of industrial giants based along the banks of the River Tees who at one time employed more than 40,000 people.

Those businesses eventually merged to become the British Steel Corporation which was nationalised, then privatised, sold numerous times and is currently hanging on by its fingertips.

But a new kid on the block has emerged: stainless steel specialist Paralloy. Although it has been around since 1967, the business has been transformed since being acquired by new owners in 2020.

Revenue has increased three-fold, the workforce has more than doubled to over 500 and the company has invested in new equipment and acquired three additional sites.

“We’re aware of the heritage and people living in this area are rightly proud of what was achieved in the past, but we’re just focused on the here and now,” said Paralloy’s Chief Executive Officer Robert McGowan.

The company has won multiple awards – recognising its success in both manufacturing and export – and has now started work on a major contract to provide vital components for one of the world’s biggest petrochemical projects.

It has designed and will produce nearly 400 radiant coils to be installed inside the seven steam cracking furnaces in the frame of the $6 billion Ras Laffan Petrochemicals Project in Qatar.

The coils, which are each 15m long, are being manufactured to withstand temperatures of 1,100 degrees centigrade which are required to crack – or break down – ethane to form ethylene, which is the root chemical for the plastics, resins, adhesives and synthetic products we all use every day.

Operations are due to start in 2026

The project is a joint venture between Chevron Phillips Chemical and QatarEnergy and will occupy a 435-acre site with a capacity of 2080 Kilo Tons per annum, making it the largest ethane cracker in the Middle East and one of the biggest in the world. Building work started in February and operations are due to start in 2026.

Paralloy’s Chief Commercial Officer Benoit Gallais said: “We are an international-level manufacturer of coils – one of three top companies in the world.”

Winning the Qatar contract was, he added, a result of great teamwork at Paralloy.  “A lot of people were involved: colleagues from the technical, estimating and quality departments.  My role was to pull it all together and answer questions on our behalf.”

The Ras Laffen facility has been designed to maximise energy efficiency during both its construction and operation, and Paralloy is making a key contribution to the project’s environmental considerations as the coils will be cast in electrical induction furnaces which are powered by certified renewable energies.

Robert McGowan said: “We have and continue to invest in products and platforms that support our customers as part of their long-term transition to a low carbon future.”

Paralloy itself intends to be carbon neutral by 2035 and, as well as its electrical induction furnaces, it recycles metals and materials as part of its circular economy. “We plan to tap into the new Hydrogen network being built in Teesside from 2028 and not only use the hydrogen but supply the core reformer tubes that are used to make the Blue hydrogen, thereby creating a truly circular and local footprint,” added Mr McGowan.

The first 100 coils are due to be shipped to Qatar in November and the final batch will leave Teesside in a year’s time.