British Titan Products

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British Titan Products was the manufacturer of TIOXIDE a brand of brilliantly white yet opaque pigment and whitening agent made from Titanium dioxide.[1] British Titan Products was initially organised to replace titanium dioxide supplies that British paint manufacturers imported from Germany. This British industry was established as a joint venture in 1934 by two of the world's major mining and chemical businesses in conjunction with a major industrial consumer and a distribution business.

Tioxide became a wholly owned ICI subsidiary in 1992. Within ICI, now renamed after its principal product Tioxide, the business retained a separate identity but it lost that identity when sold in 1999 to USA's Huntsman Corporation. In 2014 along with other Huntsman companies they together again formed the world's second largest producer of titanium dioxide. Second to DuPont. This business did not manufacture titanium metal.

Lead Poisoning[edit]

White lead has been used as a pigment since the 4th century BC, even used in cosmetics, providing a pure white pigment with good coverage. The dangers to those who contacted lead were known but not properly understood often, but not always, leading to lead poisoning.[2]

Shortly before the First World War National Lead Company in US told its stockholders it now took special care of its workers. Only men were employed no women or children, free laundry was provided and respirators. Shower baths were provided and the workmen were encouraged to wash before eating. It became generally recognised "lead has no business in the human body". Zinc oxides began to be used for white paints. Many countries banned the use of lead paints inside buildings. By the early 1930s lithopone titanium and zinc oxides were being marketed as non-poisonous.[2]

Lead poisoning's great danger to children was not recognised until the 1940s when it was decided small quantities which might create chronic lead poisoning in mature adults would kill children.[2]

British Titan Products[edit]

Until 1934 titanium oxide was imported to Britain from Germany.[3] Imperial Smelting Corporation in association with National Lead Company and its associate, Titan Company mining in Norway, both of the United States and The Imperial Chemical Industries Limited and Goodlass Wall and Lead Industries Limited together incorporated British Titan Products in 1933 and immediately began erection of a plant for the manufacture of titanium oxide at Billingham.[4]

British Titan Products was incorporated as a private company owned jointly by:

Imperial Smelting took a 17 per cent interest. The plant began operating in July 1934 and further expansion was immediately begun.[5] By the end of 1947 production was eight times the rate achieved in 1934.[6]

By 1948 the ownership was:

White pigments for Industry[edit]

In 1964 with plants in England, Canada, South Africa and Australia and sales in more than 70 different countries British Titan Products was able to advertise that it was the largest producer of titanium pigments in Europe with plants at Billingham and Grimsby and research laboratories at Stockton. Tioxide pigments were then used in all kinds of paints (in 14 different grades of Tioxide), industrial finishes, floor coverings, plastics and rubber; in addition in artificial textiles, delicate paper and cosmetics particularly soaps. They were also employed in vitreous enamels on whiteware and baths, printing inks and pale leathers and their polishes.[7]

Tioxide International[edit]

Between 1956 and 1966 production capacity was lifted from 100,000 tons a year to 162,000 tons. There was now a British labour force of 2,660 and another 1,300 in its Tioxide International plants in Australia (making Austiox), South Africa, Canada, France (Tioxide SA) and Sierra Leone. The factories took supplies from BTP mines around the world.[8]

Plants were added in Calais and Greatham, County Durham and BTP claimed to be the second largest producer of titanium dioxide in the world.[9]

Tioxide Group[edit]

British Titan Limited became Tioxide Group Limited at the beginning of 1976.[10] when its ownership was:

New Plants[edit]

  • 1948 Burnie, Tasmania. Australian Titan Products Pty
  • 1948 Grimsby, Lincolnshire
  • 1958 expansion at Grimsby and Billingham, Burnie and India
  • 1959 expansion in India and Australia
  • 1959 South Africa
  • 1959 Canada
  • 1963 Canada, Tracy near Sorel, Quebec
  • 1964 Calais, France
  • 1970 Greatham Tees-side
  • 1976 Huelva, Spain
  • 1992 Malaysia

Glass fibre cables[edit]

Western Mineral Sands[edit]

Initially a two-thirds investment with the other third held by Westralian Oil.[11] A miner of the mineral sand deposits which it turns into marketable ilmenite and synthetic rutile. In 1977 a cash issue of shares to Tioxide Australia gave them a 40 per cent shareholding.[12] The remaining Tioxide Group holding of 44.6 per cent was sold by ICI to Australian investors in early 1994[13] and the business is now run by Iluka Resources Limited.


Cookson sells to ICI[edit]

Lead Industries Group changed its name back to Cookson in 1982 (and in late 2012 would change it again to Vesuvius). Faced by EU higher discharge standards requiring Cookson to stump up with its half share of Tioxide spending £90 million at Grimsby and Calais and also the forthcoming replacement of Tioxide's factories in Canada and Australia each to cost between £50 and £100 million[14] Cookson sold its 50 per cent share of Tioxide to ICI for £160 million.[15] The Grimsby modifications would cut the discharge of sulphuric acid and metal sulphates into the Humber.[14]

On Tees-side ICI planned to spend £63 million on environmental protection for all its local operations. They had already completed seven reed beds where bacteria on the roots of the reeds consumed the liquid effluent from the Billingham plant. Tioxide had already fashioned a wetland area from rough grassland where waders and other wildfowl fed and roosted.[16]

Joint venture with NL-Kronos[edit]

Environmental concerns at the Tracy, Quebec plant and at Becancour, Quebec persuaded ICI to join NL-Kronos in a new titanium dioxide plant at Lake Charles, Louisiana.[17]

ICI sale to Texas's Huntsman Corporation[edit]

In the mid 1990s ICI began a shedding process to transform itself from a commodity chemicals group to a speciality consumer group. Though they had originally planned to float it as an independent company for a yield about £700 million ICI was persuaded by trade interest to put the business up for sale.[18] In 1999 ICI sold Tioxide to Huntsman Corporation for only £500 million. Sale contracts for £600 million to DuPont (without the purchase the world's largest producer of titanium dioxide) and later to NL Industries were each blocked by the Federal Trade Commission.[19]


  1. ^ Federated Chemical Holdings Limited "a holding company controlling and co-ordinating a group engaged in chemical, pharmaceutical and mineral distribution, trading processing and manufacturing." The Times 8 June 1977 page 19


  1. ^ B T P. The Times, Monday, Feb 26, 1962; pg. ii; Issue 55325
  2. ^ a b c Gerald Markowitz, David Rosner. Deceit and Denial, the deadly politics of industrial pollution. University of California Press, New York 2003v ISBN 0520240634
  3. ^ Imperial Chemical Industries. The Times, Friday, Apr 20, 1934; pg. 22; Issue 46733
  4. ^ Imperial Smelting Corporation. The Times, Monday, Nov 06, 1933; pg. 22; Issue 46594
  5. ^ Imperial Smelting Corporation. The Times, Tuesday, Nov 13, 1934; pg. 21; Issue 46910
  6. ^ Capital for Paint Expansion. The Times, Wednesday, Mar 31, 1948; pg. 8; Issue 51033
  7. ^ BTP. The Times, Monday, Nov 16, 1964; pg. ix; Issue 56170.
  8. ^ A decade of growth by B.T.P. The Times, Monday, Aug 01, 1966; pg. 16; Issue 56698
  9. ^ Tioxide International. The Times, Monday, Oct 11, 1971; pg. IV; Issue 58295
  10. ^ British Titan Limited. The Times, Tuesday, Sep 23, 1975; pg. 21; Issue 59508
  11. ^ Titanium faces slower growth. The Times, Monday, Apr 08, 1968; pg. 24; Issue 57221
  12. ^ The Times, Friday, Dec 02, 1977; pg. 28; Issue 60176
  13. ^ Tioxide sells. The Times, Wednesday, February 23, 1994; pg. 26; Issue 64886
  14. ^ a b Green bill may cost ICI firm £290m. The Times, Thursday, May 16, 1991; pg. 26
  15. ^ Cookson seeks £83m in cash call. The Times, Friday, March 22, 1991; pg. 25; Issue 63972
  16. ^ How green grows industry. The Times, Tuesday, March 10, 1992; pg. 29; Issue 64276
  17. ^ ICI's Tioxide agrees $200m Kronos deal. The Times, Tuesday, February 02, 1993; pg. 23; Issue 64557
  18. ^ ICI planning sell-offs to fund £5bn Unilever deal. The Times, Thursday, May 08, 1997; pg. 25; Issue 65884
  19. ^ ICI makes disposals of £1.7bn to Huntsman. The Times, Friday, April 16, 1999; pg. 27; Issue 66489

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