The oil giant, which is currently in the process of merging with the American firm Amoco, is to build new plants at its sites in Grangemouth, Scotland and Hull and extend an existing ethylene pipeline to link the two sites.
The investments, due to be completed by 2002, will create 3,100 construction jobs and 225 full-time chemicals jobs once the expansion is complete. But the expansion plan will also result in BP cutting back chemical production at its Baglan Bay site in South Wales with the loss of 150 jobs.
John Browne, chief executive of BP, said: "This is an important step in the development of our European chemicals business." He said the investment would help BP to improve its competitive position in the European market.
In the last seven years, BP has closed or sold chemical plants which had a combined output of 1.75 million tonnes a year, in a bid to improve the competitiveness of its European business.
The investment at Grangemouth, which lies on the Firth of Forth, about 20 miles west of Edinburgh, will involve the construction of a 130 megawatt combined heat and power station, the expansion of the site's ethelyne cracker, which is used in the manufacture of the world's most popular plastic, polyethylene, and a new plant for the production of ethanol, which is used in the manufacture of cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and detergents.
The expansion at Hull will involve a new plant to make vinyl acetate monomer, used in paints, adhesives and plastics, and a plant for making ethyl acetate, which goes into inks, paints and pharmaceuticals.
Construction of the new ethanol plant at Grangemouth, which will have a capacity of 110,000 tonnes per annum, will mean the end of ethanol and vinyl acetate monomer production at Baglan Bay.