BRITISH SUGAR is planning to build a £25 million plant next to its Wissington factory in Norfolk to turn sugar beet into a “green” fuel.

The plant would support hundreds of jobs in the local economy and, if government moves to create a green fuels market succeed, could be up and running within two years.

About 600,000 tonnes of sugar beet would be needed to produce 55,000 tonnes of bioethanol each year.

British Sugar wants a share in a biofuels market which may be created by government moves to encourage the use of environmentally friendly fuels and, thereby, reduce the emission of carbon dioxide and other global warming gases.

The use of bioethanol instead of fossil-derived petrol would reduce such emissions by 70%.

In the recent pre-Budget Report, Gordon Brown, confirmed that the government will consult over the proposed introduction of a renewable transport fuel obligation.

It would oblige the fuel industry in the UK to use a specified percentage of “green” fuels.

British Sugar has submitted a planning application for the plant to King‘s Lynn Borough Council.

But Trevor Smith, head of development for British Sugar, said any approval could sit on the shelf if the market for green fuels was not created.

“This is very much a first step along a very long road. Government support for an obligation remains a requirement for a large-scale industry to be developed in the UK,” he said.

Bioethanol can be readily blended with petrol with no modification to existing engine design.

Based on the EU Biofuels Directive target, around one million tonnes of bioethanol would be needed to supply the UK market alone.

The proposed plant in Norfolk would contribute about 5% of the UK bioethanol needs.