Octel corporate history

Important dates in Octel corporate history.

ETHYL GASOLINE CORPORATION manufactured the first Lead anti-knock compound (AKC)
50% owned by General Motors and 50% by Standard Oil New Jersey (Esso)
(Renamed ETHYL CORPORATION in 1942.)

Esso had an exclusive contract to use AKC in UK. AKC was a mixture of Tetra Ethyl Lead (TEL)  and Ethylene Dibromide.





Advert for Ethyl gasoline


Ethyl Gasoline Corporation opened an office in London and Ray Bevan transferred to the new company from Anglo-America, He was joined in 1930 by F R Banks who dealt with the technical aspects of AKC especially with regards to aviaation fuels. Hu Fossett dealt with the automotive side of the business. A few years later the company had separted their domestic and foreign business by establising Ethyl Export Corporation.

Ethyl-Dow Chemical Corporation open a bromine from sea water plant in North Carolina. (watch video)

NC-D98 Bromine Extraction

With the prospect of war looming discussion began between Ethyl Export and the Air Ministry regarding availability of TEL for aviation gasoline for the RAF in the event of a war. AKC was considered as “the magic bullet” as it allowed aero engines to use leaded fuel which gave them to fly higher and faster. The UK Treasury had decided that for economic reasons the plans to build a TEL factory in the UK had to be shelved. However the Air Ministry were concerned that lack of AKC would have a serious effect on the RAF’s ability to fight back in any war. Germany, Frnace and Italy already had TEL plants,

British Ethyl Corporation incorporated in London. The company was 50% owned by ICI and 50% by Ethyl Corportation. The oil companies also became involved in the future development of the AKC resulting in the formation of Associated Ethyl company LTD by 1938. Shell ,Esso and General moters each held 25% of the shares, with BP, Mobile,Texaco and Chevron owning the rest. JM Jones and SB Cormack from  ICI were sent to the USA to study the production of TEL. They compiled a technical report in August 1936 which became known as the JM Bible.

Ethyl Gasoline granted Associated patent rights and licences to manufacture AKC until 31-12-47 and exclusive rights to sell AKC outside North America for 15years from 1 May 1939.

Ethyl Aviation gas

The Air Ministry decided to push ahead with the developement of a TEL factory at Northwich, to produce anti-knock compounds for aircraft fuel, was completed just in time for Battle of Britain, alleviating the need to import from USA. The first charge of TEL was made on 9th September 1940. The bromine from Northwich was provided by a plant at Hayle in Cornwall which had a design capacity of 2500 tpa. Plant was owned by the UK government and operated by ICI. The company became The Associated Ethyl Co Ltd in September 1938 and the product named Octel Antiknock compound. Later the company became Associated Octel which removed the confusion with the main American competitor Ethyl Corporation.




1943 Associated Ethyl aquired ICI’s 50% share of the business.

Reorganisation of Associated Ethyl and expansion of UK facilities. During 1948-9 sea water flows at Hayle were increased by the installation of a booster pump house. A sulphur store was constructed on the Quay to serve the Contact Sulphuric Acid plant that was installed. The quality of the ethylene dibromide scavenger was improved when liquid ethylene, from Petrochemicals, Manchester replacing the in-house production of ethylene from ethanol.

New structure for Associated Ethyl Company and a program of expansion at Ellesmere Port. New Bromine for sea water facility to be established at Amlwch due to production issues at Hayle.

The Company name was changed to ASSOCIATED OCTEL CO LTD.

octel works amlwch




The need for significant capital expenditure for the replacement of ageing equipment at Hayle precipitated the decision to close that site down in May 1973 and rely solely on the 30,000 pa ton facility in Anglesey. Hayle site demolished by 1974. Good–will of Hayle bromine sales business and tanks sold to Dow Chemicals. Arrangements made for despatch of liquid bromine from Amlwch on behalf of Dow-Kings Lynn.


Octel tests at the engine lab at Bletchley showed that lead traps reduce lead emissions by about 70%, based on prototypes developed by Associated Octel.

The Shell Oil Company purchased the undeveloped North East portion of the site from Octel in 1974. They developed an oil terminal capable of discharging 500,000 tonne oil tankers from a Single Moooring Bouy (SMB) This site was chosen to avoid the congested waters of Liverpool and the tidal restrictions of the Mersey. Close co-operaton between Octel and Shell was established at this time.

As Distribution Manager, ex WM Amlwch negotiated a facility agreement for the Amlwch branch with BR Stoke Division. This was signed during an LM Region General Managers visit to Amlwch by David Binnie and Walter Greaves (Octel MD) in his Inspection saloon outside the Works Gate. This was the first Facility Agreement between BR and a freight customer. The agreement with BR LM Region was a modus operandi for Octel to have sole use of the line from Gaerwen, a formula whereby Octel contributed to the high costs of keeping the line open, and to guarantee the continued availability of the facility for the duration of the agreement.

Great Lakes (Europe) purchases the Octel Bromine business.




Great Lakes planned to close its Newton-Aycliffe and Amlwch plants, both in the U.K. The facilities, which each employ about 100, manufacture flame retardants and related products. The plant at Amlwch was given a reprieve.

In September Great Lakes Chemical Corporation announced it had entered into a long-term strategic sourcing agreement from Dead Sea Bromine Ltd in Israel. Octel Factory director Brian Macconnachie said bromine was present in sea water off Amlwch at only 65 parts per million but in the Dead Sea it is present at 14,000 parts per million.

1 October 2013 Great Lakes decided to close Amlwch plant.

Octel Amlwch stops production in March 2004, decommissioning and decontamination takes another 9 months.

Canatxx purchase site and announce plans to produce a liquid natural gas (LNG) storage plant at the site.