A FIRM leading the rebirth of a mothballed £250m North-East refinery says the site has been the catalyst for increased production and revenues.

CropEnergiesAG said bioethanol sales lifted 12 per cent to £164m for the first quarter to May 31.

It revealed the results were galvanised by its revived Ensus plant, in Wilton, near Redcar, with bosses forecasting potential revenues of £715m for the full financial year.

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Bosses said demand had increased supplies of bioethanol by 30 per cent to 262,000 cubic metres in the period.

The German firm, which is one of Europe’s largest bioethanol producers, restarted work at the factory last year, pumping £50m into the plant.

Earlier this year, The Northern Echo revealed the Ensus factory had helped CropEnergies reach record sales of more than one million cubic metres in its previous annual results.

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

A statement said: “In the first quarter, bioethanol production lifted 30 per cent compared to the previous year’s 201,000 cubic metres.

“Consequently, the volumes of food and animal feed products, which were produced, also increased.

“The volumes of Ensus contributed to a first quarter of a financial year for the first time, with growth further supplemented by production in Germany.”

However, the company reiterated its warning over an increased focus on biofuels in the EU, calling for a greater push to lower the use of fossil fuels in the transport sector.

It added: “At this point in time, biofuels are the only possibility to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the transport sector quickly and cheaply.

“An agreement on a political level will, in the mid-term, result in a growing biofuels market in the EU.”

Ensus employs about 100 North-East workers at Wilton and Yarm, who were retained on full pay during three previous breaks of operations.

The plant’s former owners blamed poor harvests and rising energy costs for the problems.