Smithkline Beecham Pharmaceuticals

2nd February. 1993 ,
Twenty nine members took part in the visit to SmithKline Beecham Pharmaceuticals (SB) in East Worthing in the afternoon of 2nd February 1993. Gathering in a conference room in the main office block, we were addressed by Mr. L.W.Scrannage, the Site Engineering Manager, Mr.M.J.Bendel1, Senior Mechanical Engineer and Mr. K.W.Parsons, Senior Electrical Engineer prior to a tour of the plant.
Mr. Scrannage opened by outlining the development of the Group, first showing a slide of an advertisement in ‘The Lady’ of July 1913 for Beechams Pills, reminding us of their slogan “Worth a Guinea a Box”. going on to describe how the company moved from making proprietary medicines and toileteries to “ethical” medicines, i.e. medicines which are only supplied against a prescription by medically qualified practioners. Research in this field led to the identification and isolation of a penicillin nucleus and hence the manufacture of penicillins. Beechams merged with the American company SmithKline Beckman Corporation in 1989 to form the world’s fifth largest health care company with a capitalisation of £.20 Billion, annual sales of over £4 Billion, employing some 55,000 people in 66 countries with some 300 brands sold in 130 countries. The output of the Worthing plant – which is a cost centre and not a profit centre – is around £90m p.a,, some 6% of SB annual production costs.
The current production at Worthing is principally penicillins for fighting bacterial infections, namely semi-synthetic penicillins and clavulanic acid, an enzyme inhibitor which increases the effectiveness of penicillins. The other production is a range of products for diagnosing and alleviating allergy problems, These are all manufactured under both sterile and non- sterile conditions covering the whole process from initial fermentation to packaging. The site also houses major research and process development facilities and the Engineering Services Group for Europe, Africa and Asia.
Beecham’s Worthing was opened in 1960, it now occupies 40 acres and employs 1700 people. A lasting impression amongst our group was amazement at the sheer size of the plant, tucked away almost out of sight in a quiet residential corner of East Worthing. Many of us did not even know that it existed, it seems.
Our hosts then went on to concentrate on the description of energy aspects of the Worthing site in some detail, particularly the Combined Heat and Power (CHP) scheme now under construction.
The total annual energy usage for the site operating 24 hrs/day, 365 days/year is:—
90 GWh electricity (rising to lOOGWh) per annum at an average instantaneous load of 10.5 MW, 5.5M Therms gas, producing 26t/h steam at 10 bar saturated.
The CHP plant will cover all energy requirements when operating and is designed to export about 4MW at times of lower usage (at night for instance – the electrical load drops by about 2MW at 5.p.m. on weekdays). The thermal efficiency of the plant will be in excess of 70%. Standby and top up is provided by the existing Seeboard llkV feeders – which are being revamped to allow for export – and by keeping the existing boilers on hot standby to give a start up of 25 to 30 seconds. It is hoped with experience to go to cold standby.
The CHP plant is supplied with gas from the town main and comprises an electrically driven (500MW) reciprocating gas compressor, a GE 404 jet turbine (the same as used in the US Stealth bomber), a European Gas Turbines RM1600 power turbine, a Brush 13 MW llkV alternator and a water tube boiler fired by the exhaust gases. Boiler output is controlled by a combination of chimney and boiler dampers.
Environmental controls are strict for which an integrated pollution control system is being provided. There are particularly tight requirements on additional NOX emissions. Noise levels are to be 10 dba below those existing in the area. A new chimney will be needed of the same height as the existing one but as the two chimneys are less than twelve diameters apart vortex interactions will have to be taken into account. An environmental advantage of the CHP plant is a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
The existing control room will be integrated with that of the CHP scheme, but there will be two operators.
We were told of the contractual arrangements for the CHP plant. which is being provided, after tender procedures, by Powergen under a Master Energy Contract. The annual saving in energy costs is estimated at £0.5M and the contractual arrangement is such that irrespective of index changes, on which costing is based. SB are guaranteed savings on energy costs despite having incurred no capital charges for the CHP plant itself. They have, however, the right to buy the plant at an already agreed figure after 5 years reducing annually until it becomes theirs totally after 10 years without payment.
Powergen are to be responsible for all operations and maintenance including staffing, in fact, the term used was that the plant is a “Black Box” as far as SB are concerned until such times as they purchase it or it reverts to them. Costs to SB associated with the changeover are some £9M giving a pay-back period of 5 years – as opposed to the standard pay-back within SB for capital projects of 2 years.
The talk by our hosts then dealt with the site plant engineering maintenance scheme. Repair and maintenance is carried out by a staff of 220 (against 450 production staff) on a budget of £3.5M/Y. Spare stocks are valued at £3.2M (£26M for penicillin stocks). Plant availability is 92% in the sterile areas and 98% in the non-steriles. The whole philosophy is to design out problems and to eliminate “fire-fighting” actions. An interesting maintenance problem specifically mentioned was water quality. All water is drawn from the town main and not only is it extremely hard but the silica content creates build up in the boilers and steam lines which needs special attention.
After questions, we split into three parties to tour the plant. We saw the steriles packing robots (not working at the time), the workshops (being refurbished with full air-conditioning), the CHP plant site under construction (civil works only at this stage), the compressor, boiler and fermentation houses. the llkV switchroom and from a distance, the solvent recovery plant, a fully flameproof area to which only a very few approved personnel have access.
During our tour we learned that effluent disposal is a major problem with the NRA becoming more and more interested. The main effluent outfall is some 4 miles out to sea; no solids are discharged. Experimental work is in progress on reed bed purification.
After the tour we returned to the conference room for a welcome cup of tea and biscuits – and final questions; some of which were in the nature of free consultancy advice, which seemed to be appreciated. Certainly Mr. Scrannage commented that it was a pleasure to conduct such a knowledgeable group round the plant.
A thoroughly enjoyable visit was acknowledged in a vote of thanks to our hosts proposed by Alan Standbridge and carried by acclamation.
As a final thought, those of us who live in Worthing now know for absolute certainty that the other Worthing pong, smelt on calm warm summer evenings, is Beechams. it pervades the site!