A £8M plant converting food waste into energy has moved a step closer to completion.

The Emerald Biogas anaerobic digestion facility, on Newton Aycliffe Industrial Estate, County Durham, is the North-East's first commercial food-to-waste facility, and will create eight new jobs when it is finished.

At full capacity, the plant will process 50,000 tonnes of food waste from across the region every year into heat and power, producing 1.56MW, enough to power about 2,000 homes.

The plant is expected to begin producing electricity in June.

Bosses are now planning the second phase of the development after securing a number of food waste contracts, including the potential to upgrade the biogas to a higher-grade product that can be injected into the gas grid, and a vehicle fuel station.

The next development would allow the plant to process 100,000 tonnes of food waste each year, and the firm has already securing planning permission and permits for the extension.

Adam Warren, Emerald Biogas director, said: “Despite the difficult winter and the associated problems it brought, we are now ready to begin testing the facility.

“The next few months will see a flurry of activity on site as we gear up for phase one to become fully operational.

"Once at full capacity, we can can look forward to creating renewable energy for neighbouring industrial companies and producing quality fertiliser.”

Emerald Biogas was formed in 2009 by Adam and Antony Warren, owners of the John Warren ABP food waste collection and animal by-product recycling firm, and Ian Bainbridge, who runs diverse farming business, Agricore.