Biofuel plant bosses look at significant investment after production restarts (From The Northern Echo)
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CropEnergies, owners of Wilton's Ensus plant, start work again
A MOTHBALLED £250m North-East bioethanol factory has restarted production, with its new owners unveiling major investment plans to make it a world-leading plant.
The Ensus refinery, in Wilton, near Redcar, is operating again after a poor harvest and rising energy costs halted work in April for the third time in three years.
CropEnergies AG, one of Europe's largest bioethanol producers, bought the factory in July and put £50m into the site.
The Northern Echo understands the German company will increase that investment if initial work proves successful.
The company employs 100 workers across its Wilton and Yarm bases, and supports 2,000 supply chain jobs, and says it will build up to full production in the coming months.
The factory uses wheat to create bioethanol that is added to petrol by breaking down starch in grains to sugars, which are fermented into alcohol and carbon dioxide.
The remaining protein and grain is used to make thousands of tonnes of feed for pigs and cattle and carbon dioxide for the soft drinks and food market every year.
Ian Swales, Redcar's Liberal Democrat MP, previously worked with North-East MEPs Fiona Hall and Stephen Hughes, as well as industry leaders, to re-open the plant.
He said: “I'm delighted with this announcement because we have owners with the financial backing to make it a success.
“It is also very encouraging to hear that CropEnergies have further investment plans.
“It is no secret that the previous owners of the plant had difficulties, but I'm confident that CropEnergies have a strong business.
“As well as the 100 direct jobs, there is the supply chain, which includes farmers, who benefit from the plant using wheat so it is good news.”
Production at the factory started in February 2010, with the first tanker of bioethanol shipped to Shell UK a month later.
However, within weeks, a pungent stench from the plant triggered a storm of protests from nearby residents and the factory was taken offline. The odour problems cost millions to fix, and the plant re-opened in May 2010.
A year later, it was forced into a further shutdown, with bosses blaming lower-than-anticipated demand for ethanol across Europe and cheap imports.
It stopped work again in April, citing a poor harvest and rising energy costs for the decision.
Earlier this month, the plant received support from ministers when the European Parliament voted for a six per cent cap on the amount of fuels coming from land used to grow crops for the transport energy market.
Ministers, including Ms Hall, say the figure will help producers such as the Ensus plant continue to grow, though campaigners claim the process takes up too much land and causes climate change.
She said: “A cap is needed to prevent unlimited expansion of crop-based biofuels, which can conflict with food production.
“Setting the cap at six per cent will give the industry a fair chance to adapt to policy changes.”
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