NORTH-EAST construction workers are expected to play a big part in building the world’s largest waste-to-energy plant, it has been confirmed.

US company Air Products has awarded the site preparation contract for its new Billingham advanced gasification plant to Tolent Construction, of Thornaby, near Stockton.

Tolent will be responsible for recruiting civil engineering specialists to prepare the land and work on areas such as reinforcement, concrete supply and underground piping.

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The move is expected to offer a welcome boost to the region’s building trade as Air Products’ has a policy of encouraging its contractors to hire locally wherever possible.

Its main employment contractor is Foster Wheeler Construction Management Personnel, which itself employs more than 50 people in the North-East.

The building of Air Products’ facility, which will be the first of its kind in the UK when it starts production next year, is expected to create up to 700 construction jobs in the year ahead.

“Air Products has been working on Teesside for many years and we appreciate the level of skilled, professional people in the region such as those working for Tolent,”

said David J Taylor, vice-president of Air Products Energy Business. “We are pleased to be able to show how projects such as ours can help maintain and support a strong local economy while also helping the region reach renewable energy and environmental targets.”

The facility in Billingham – one of two that Air Products is building in this area – will be the largest of its kind in the world with an approximate capacity of 50MW. It will burn up to 350,000 tonnes of rubbish, that would otherwise have been sent to landfill, to produce enough electricity to power up to 50,000 homes.

Air Products last year announced plans to build two renewable energy plants on reclaimed land next to the North Tees chemical complex.

The projects are part of a cluster of renewable energy plants planned for the region, which includes Teessidebased Scott Brothers Group’s proposed £75m Billingham Energy gasifier on the old ICI Billingham site at Haverton Hill.