Friday, July 20, 2018

Bioethanol plant reopens after four-month closure

April 30, 2018 by  
Filed under News & Business

A major processing plant which generates renewable energy from wheat has finally reopened after a four-month closure.

Based in East Yorkshire, the Vivergo Fuels near Hull reopened last month – amid warnings from the company that unfavourable trading conditions and government inaction on the future of renewable fuels means urgent steps are needed to secure its long-term future.

Vivergo said the immediate roll-out of E10 fuel – a blend of conventional petrol and 10% bioethanol – would benefit both the environment and public health. But the plant’s future was threatened by uncertainty over when the government would permit its UK introduction.

Benefits for farmers

The restart of Vivergo’s plant is particularly welcome news for nearby farmers who supplied the plant. But the facility has benefits beyond Yorkshire because it provides a market for UK feed wheat that would have otherwise be exported at a lower price.

Vivergo said the passing of the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO) was a positive step in bolstering prospects for the plant. The RTFO came into effect last month – increasing the permitted use of renewable fuels in transport from 4.75% to a target of 9.75% by 2020.

The processor is now calling on the government to introduce E10 fuel by the end of the year. The E10 blend was already used across North America, Europe and Australasia, it said. Introducing it in the UK would save carbon emissions equivalent to taking 700,000 cars off the road.

Vivergo Fuels managing director Mark Chesworth said the RTFO and completion of maintenance work had prompted Vivergo to recommence production. But he added: “There is much still to do if we are to sustain production and maintain this significant industry in the UK.”

Green benefits

From an environmental perspective, Mr Chesworth said the introduction of E10 would represent the fastest and most cost-effective solution to decarbonise transport, which was currently the highest emitting sector of greenhouse gases in the UK.

In terms of investment, the £350m plant was build on the expectation that the UK market for biofuel would be twice what it is today by now. Government inertia in developing legislation on this situation has further undermined confidence in renewables investment.

Vivergo Fuels provided substantial high quality employment in the region, both directly at Saltend and through the associated supply chain and British farming. “E10 would provide greater stability for these jobs, skills and agriculture,” said Mr Chesworth.

Vivergo supplies farms in the UK with high-protein animal feed made from processed wheat, without which, it says, many more livestock producers would have to buy imported feed for their dairy herds.

The Department for Transport said it was increasing targets for the use of renewable fuels. It said it was working closely with the industry and motoring groups to consider the issues around a potential introduction of E10 and the role government could play.

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