A £250M North-East refinery has spearheaded a bioethanol firm's record sales.

CropEnergies AG says the revived Ensus plant, in Wilton, near Redcar, has been pivotal to increased production.

Bosses say the factory, which was previously mothballed, helped raise sales to more than one million cubic metres for the first time.

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Production was nine per cent higher at 884,000 cubic metres for the full-year to February 28, with Ensus' impact lifting revenues to £636m from £561m.

The results also come as a major boost to Ensus' 100-strong workforce, employed at Wilton and Yarm, who were retained on full pay in three breaks of operations when poor harvests and rising energy costs hit its previous owners.

German company CropEnergies are one of Europe's largest bioethanol producers and last year restarted work at the factory, pumping £50m into the site.

The plant is regarded as a key part of the UK meeting renewable fuel targets, using wheat to create bioethanol, which is added to petrol.

It then takes remaining protein and grain for use in animal feed and carbon dioxide for soft drinks.

Dr Martin Keil, CropEnergies' chief operating officer, said: “We have continued to growth in the last year, with revenues increasing by 13 per cent.

“That was mainly down to the acquisition of Ensus in July last year.

“We have increased production by nine per cent to 884,000 cubic metres, compared to last year's 808,000, and the production of food and animal feed has also increased considerably.

“For the first time in our history, we have sold more than one million cubic metres of bioethanol, with sales increasing by 20 per cent to 1.012 million, due in part to our expanded trading.”

However, the company warned the EU must increase focus on biofuels and push harder to lower the use of fossil fuels in the transport sector.

Dr Keil added: “The continuing discussions in Brussels is slowing down the growth of the European bioethanol market.

“This uncertainty makes many member states hesitate on increasing the share of biofuels as planned and introduce new products to the market.

“This means the potential to lower the fossil fuel consumption and green house gas emissions quickly and cost-efficiently is being squandered.”

North-East MEP Fiona Hall worked with fellow MEP Stephen Hughes and Liberal Democrat Redcar MP Ian Swales to get the factory reopened.

She said: “I’m delighted to see the plant prove its worth to the new owners.

“There has always been huge potential in Ensus and it has been unfortunate to face several setbacks in recent years.

“The concerns raised by CropEnergies regarding ongoing negotiations in Brussels highlight the need for the UK to remain engaged in the legislative process at a European level.

“Local workers need to know they have a supportive voice fighting their corner when decisions are being made that will impact on the company’s future.”