AN energy firm is targeting Teesside workers to strengthen its North-East presence.

Air Products has launched a recruitment drive for skilled staff to operate its second advanced gasification plant in Billingham, near Stockton.

Bosses say they want 50 people to run the plant, including senior engineering roles and maintenance and administrative positions, with the work supporting hundreds of construction posts.

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The company says site, which is expected to start operating in 2016, will power about 50,000 North-East homes by taking up to 350,000 tonnes of non-recyclable waste away from landfill every year.

It will sit alongside Air Products’ sister and almost identical plant on land near the North Tees Chemical Complex, using plasma technology to generate energy by burning domestic and commercial waste.

The first power station is planned to begin work later this year, creating another 50 jobs and supplying energy for another 50,000 homes, with the two factories standing as the largest of their kind in the UK.

The development is backed by the Government's Energy for Growth scheme, which aims to save taxpayers' money by securing a fixed price on electricity from suppliers.

The Cabinet Office last year agreed a deal to buy power output from the second plant for the next 20 years, which ministers predict will save £97m and meet two per cent of the Government's overall energy consumption.

David Taylor, Air Products' energy business vice-president, visited the site in April with Minister for the Cabinet Office Francis Maude, and told The Northern Echo the company's presence in the region was highly significant.

He said: “This second site is of great importance because it continues our growth in an area that forms a major part of our operations.

“The factory will be largely similar to our first plant but the significant part here is we are going to supply the Cabinet Office under a long-term contract.

“We are very proud to contribute to that programme.

“When we are looking to sell our products, the aim is to work with creditable long-term partners and, by gosh, they don't get much better than the UK Government.

“We know the North-East, it's not a new area for us and we like being here.

“As a company, we've been in the UK for more than 50 years and know this region from our chemical operations on the old ICI site.

“The area has all the attributes we need.”

Andrew Connolly, Air Products’ Tees Valley plant manager, added: “As we did with our first plant, we are looking to recruit from Teesside primarily, although we may need to recruit people from outside the region to fill certain positions.

“There’s a mix of skilled and semi-skilled jobs on offer, and the chance to build a long-term career at an international company.”