Cereals 2009: Ensus bioethanol plant is back on track

Construction of Europe’s largest wheat refinery at Wilton on Teesside is almost complete and the plant is on track to beginning bioethanol production later this summer.

Speaking at Cereals 2009, Ensus wheat and animal feed manager Stewart Easdon told Farmers Weekly testing of the Ensus plant’s systems was due to start soon and commercial production was on track to start at the end of the summer.

“If all goes to plan, the plant will take about 1.1m tonnes of wheat annually and produce 350,000t of distillers grains for animal feed,” he said. It will produce more than 400m litres of bioethanol, plus 300,000t of carbon dioxide which will be used in the soft drinks and food processing industry.

Grain will be supplied by Glencore and the firm’s Nick Oakhill said the plant’s opening would make a big impact on the UK’s available crop surplus, which was set to get tighter this season.

“Farmers are a lot happier after the recent rain, but there’s no doubt yields will be down on last year,” he said. “We’re expecting a UK crop of 14.4-14.75m tonnes, which compares with 17m tonnes last year. Including the 450-500,000t carry over from 2008 and the 1.1m tonnes Ensus will take, we expect the exportable surplus to be about 1-1.25m tonnes.

“There’s no doubt the underlying supply situation in the UK is tight. With only 1.25m tonnes to export, we should do it relatively easily with milling wheat to Spain and feed to the near continent.”

But while market fundamentals were strong, other factors, such as third party investors and investment funds, were causing unpredictable price swings, he said. “It’s increasingly difficult to predict movements on a daily basis.”

As Farmers Weekly went to press, November wheat was trading at £120-122/t ex-farm, and £113-115/t for harvest.

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