Teesside biofuel plant Ensus closes for third time
Ensus bosses say they are “deeply frustrated” as they began taking the Wilton plant – which employs 100 workers – offline yesterday.
It’s the latest in a string of major setbacks faced by the plant, which is the largest in of its kind in Europe and produces low carbon bioethanol for transport fuel.
Weeks after opening in February 2010, a strong stench pouring from its giant stacks triggered complaints from residents nearby.
The odour problems cost millions to fix, and the plant reopened – but in May 2011 it was forced into further shutdown.
The closure was scheduled to only last four months but eventually went on for 15 months.
Bosses claimed the subsidies, and rules on foreign imports, were stifling revenues.
But hopes were fuelled that revenues would rise again in December, after the EU voted to impose “anti-dumping” measures on imports of bioethanol from the USA.
The company said the “slow development” of the UK and European markets for green bioethanol was behind the latest blow. Rising gas prices and last year’s poor UK wheat harvest are also to blame, bosses added.
Ensus chiefs say they’re confident in the long-term future of the plant – but market conditions for the highly sustainable bioethanol it produces need to catch up.
Workers will be retained on full pay throughout the halt in production, which chiefs have claimed is not a full shutdown.
An Ensus spokesman said it was unclear how long the “pause in production” would be.
“We hope that market conditions can improve and that the plant will become operational again in the near future.
“Unfortunately, the European ethanol market continues to be challenging as the price of ethanol has not risen in line with input costs.
“In the UK the poor wheat harvest in 2012 has also had an adverse impact on the quality and price of the feed wheat feedstock used within the plant, while rising gas prices have pushed our costs up considerably.
“Ensus is deeply frustrated by the slow development of the UK and European markets, given that it manufactures a highly sustainable product – bioethanol – and that it makes a major contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and increasing the UK’s energy and food security.
“The high-protein animal feed produced by Ensus is good for UK farmers and reduces the country’s reliance on imported materials.”
Ensus chief executive Peter Sopp called for the UK Government to continue to back the use of biofuels in transport.
“Ensus remains confident in the long-term future of the business and we believe it is critical that the UK continues to support the use of high quality sustainable biofuels.
“Ensus is able to supply genuine environmentally sustainable ethanol to satisfy this need but unfortunately market conditions are working against us at the moment.”
The super-green Ensus plant produces a valuable animal feed and CO2 for the drinks industry, alongside green transport fuel.
It uses 1.2 million tonnes of surplus wheat a year, without impacting on food crops.