UPDATED — An April 29 fire at a Teknor Apex Co. compounding plant in England is being treated as arson by local fire officials.
“Our fire investigators are now treating this incident as arson, and liaising with West Midlands Police who will be conducting a criminal inquiry,” officials with the West Midlands Fire Service said in a May 11 statement on the service's web site.
Later on May 11, Teknor issued a statement on the investigation from President William Murray. “An expert in fire origin and cause has done an investigation of the site and was unable to determine a cause,” Murray said. “In accordance with the law, the investigation has been turned over to the local authorities who are doing a complete review of reports done by the insurance company and the local fire district.”
No one was injured in the fire, which damaged about 75 percent of the plant in Oldbury. The fire started on the building's roof. More than 70 firefighters were needed to battle the blaze.
All employees at the site at the time escaped safely. Officials with Pawtucket, R.I.-based Teknor said April 29 that the firm is in the process of setting up a temporary local business office and that a team will be on site to evaluate the impact of the fire.
Teknor made compounds based on nylon, thermoplastic elastomers and PET at the Oldbury plant, which is about 130 miles northwest of London.
After the fire, Teknor official said, production planning was immediately implemented at the firm's U.S. plants. Teknor operates TPE and nylon/PET compounding plants in the United States and in Singapore. They added that there's existing stock of those materials at a warehouse elsewhere in the United Kingdom, and that there's ample capacity for stocking compounds in a warehouse in Genk, Belgium.
Supplying to European TPE customers from U.S. facilities is not a new situation for Teknor, officials said. Before the startup of TPE production at Oldbury, compounds were made in the U.S. and shipped to customers throughout Europe. They added that offering compounds that can be supplied globally “is central to Teknor's strategy,” and that the firm systematically transfers technologies across facilities around the world, operates identical compounding equipment at these sites and uses identical chemically equivalent formulations.
“Customers that have been supplied from Oldbury can expect a smooth transition to compounds sourced from the United States,” Teknor officials said in a statement, adding that the company is working through all necessary approvals and protocols.
Teknor ranks as one of North America's 30 largest compounders and concentrate makers. It operates 13 plants worldwide and has annual sales of more than $600 million.