Boost for UK feed protein supply: Vivergo Fuels site to reopen

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

Bird's eye view of the Vivergo Fuels plant in Hull, UK © Vivergo Fuels
Bird's eye view of the Vivergo Fuels plant in Hull, UK © Vivergo Fuels

Related tags feed protein bioethanol Wheat

Vivergo Fuels site in Hull in the UK will be re-opening following an announcement by the UK’s Department for Transport that E10 petrol – a cleaner, greener fuel – will be introduced at UK filling stations from September 2021.

Prior to ceasing production in September 2018, the plant employed over 130 highly skilled people and supported over 3,000 jobs directly and indirectly, contributing £600m (US$837m) to the UK economy.

The plan now is to recruit for around 85 highly skilled green jobs in addition to the core team that remained in place during its closure.

Dr Mark Carr, group chief executive, AB Sugar, commented: “It was an extremely difficult decision we had to take to close in September 2018, but we have continued to maintain this world-class plant in the anticipation that it could re-start if the conditions were right to do so."

He said three factors influenced the decision to close the facility in September 2018: the ethanol price, the input (wheat) price and certainty of future demand, determined by the mandating of E10.

"Now with the government’s announcement​ of the planned introduction of E10, which was crucial to driving market demand and the promising current operating environment, a decision has been taken to reopen. We will start manufacturing bioethanol in early 2022."

Carr said the development was good news for the British biofuels industry, the economy within the Humber region, the environment and consumers.

Vivergo Fuels formed in 2007 as a biorefinery for the future. The business was started as a joint venture between AB Sugar, BP, and DuPont – to help deliver a significant portion of the UK’s forecast biofuel demand. In 2015, AB Sugar acquired BP's share to become the majority shareholder of Vivergo. When up an running, the plant was the UK’s largest and Europe’s second largest producer of bioethanol.

The site can produce up to 420 million liters of bioethanol and up to 500,000 tons of high protein animal feed, subject to market demand.

Raw material supply 

Prior to shutting down in autumn 2018, the bioethanol plant sourced feed wheat from nearly 900 farms mostly across the East and North Yorkshire and Northern Lincolnshire regions.  

Vivergo said it is again looking to establish supply relationships with past partners, growers and customers, noting how the National Farmers Union (NFU) and growers have been extremely supportive of the plant and were concerned when it ceased production given that the site was the largest single intake for feed wheat in the country.

“Not only did growers lose a customer to sell their feed wheat to, they also lost the animal feed the plant produced as a co-product of the bioethanol production meaning that any livestock or dairy farmers that were supplied by the plant also needed to source alternative proteins. We look forward to once again working with the NFU and local growers to secure a sustainable industry.”

At the time of the plant closure, the NFU called upon the UK's Department of Transport to implement its proposals to raise the Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation and to introduce E10 to the UK fuel mix; giving the industry the confidence it needed. 

Matt Culley, NFU crops board chairman, commenting last week on the UK government’s announcement of a planned introduction of E10, said: “The NFU has long been calling for the government to authorize E10 fuel and it is great to hear that it will start to be available at UK forecourts from September. Not only will this mandate provide a boost for the UK wheat and sugar sectors, it will play an important and immediate role in delivering the government’s green agenda, especially as it may be some years before we are able to make a countrywide shift to fully electric vehicles.”

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