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Vivergo Fuels re-open idled UK ethanol plant but call for speedy E10 introduction

The UK's largest ethanol plant, Vivergo Fuels in Hull has re-opened following a four-month shut-down period following unfavourable trading conditions; in part driven by Government inaction on the future of renewable fuels and current market conditions. It is hoped that conditions will improve as a result of the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO) being passed through Parliament in March. The UK bioethanol industry is calling for the Government to introduce E10 fuel by the end the year.

Ethanol loading at Vivergo Fuels 420 million litres per annum capacity plant in Hull (photo courtesy Vivergo Fuels).

Over the coming months, it is hoped that conditions will improve as a result of the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO) being passed through Parliament in March 2018. This will come into effect later this month, increasing the use of renewable fuels in transport from 4.75 percent to a target of 9.75 percent by 2020.

We are pleased to see the RTFO pass through Parliament. This step, combined with the completion of maintenance work, has prompted us to recommence production after being offline over the winter period.  However, there is much still to do if we are to sustain production and maintain this significant industry in the UK, said Mark Chesworth, Managing Director of Vivergo Fuels.

The UK bioethanol industry is now calling for the Government to introduce E10 fuel by the end of the year. E10 contains a 10 percent blend of ethanol with petrol which can lower emissions from vehicles. It is commonly used across North America, Europe and Australasia and introducing it in the UK would mean significant fossil carbon emissions savings.

Whilst we value the recent government commitment to the RTFO, it is vital that we now progress this through the rapid introduction of E10, said Chesworth.

According to Chesworth, there are three key reasons for a rapid introduction of E10 in the UK:

  1. From an environmental perspective, it would provide an immediate impact on transport emissions to the benefit of the environment and public health. With new petrol vehicle registrations rising to 63 percent this year alone, petrol hybrid vehicles also increasing and fully electric vehicles still representing just 0.6 percent of sales, E10 represents the fastest and most cost-effective solution to decarbonise transport, which is currently the highest emitting sector of greenhouse gases in the UK
  2. In terms of investment, the £350 million plant in Hull was predicated on the UK government’s commitment to the Renewable Energy Directive (RED) enacted though to transport fuel to the RTFO and anticipated the UK market would be twice what it is today by now. Government inertia in developing legislation on this situation has further undermined confidence in renewables investment not least the further development of alternative new technologies
  3. Vivergo Fuels represents one of the most significant investments in the north of England, providing 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.”

The restart of Vivergo’s 420 million litres per annum capacity ethanol plant in Hull, the largest in the UK, is particularly welcome news for the agricultural community, as many farms in the region who supplied the plant were directly affected by the shutdown.

In addition to providing a market for around 1.1 million tonnes of feed wheat that would have otherwise been exported at a lower price, Vivergo supplies farms in the UK with 500 000 tonnes per annum of high-protein animal feed, without which they would be required to buy imported feed for their dairy herds.

Vivergo Fuels is a company within the AB Sugar group of businesses that is part of Associated British Foods plc (ABF), the international ingredients and retail group. ABF operates across 24 plants in 10 countries and employs around 32 000 people.

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