Vivergo Fuels, the British Sugar business operating the wheat to bioethanol plant on Humberside, is to cease production “for the foreseeable future” from the end of September. The company, part of the AB Sugar division of Associated British Foods (ABF), blames its decision on “the continued difficult trading environment” with high wheat feedstock prices and low bioethanol values, as well as delays in moving to a higher rate of renewable fuels inclusion in the UK.

In April this year, before the recent rise in feed wheat prices, the company had warned that without greater government policy support for renewable road fuels, the future of the UK’s largest bioethanol plant was in the balance. In particular, Vivergo called for a rapid move to a 10% biofuel blend (E10) for UK transport fuels. While the domestic Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation requires the renewable element of transport fuels to increase from the current 4.75% to a target of 9.75% by 2020, the UK bioethanol industry was lobbying for E10 to be introduced by the end of 2018 fuel to match other countries in reducing vehicle emissions.

The plant had already been closed from November 2017 to April 2018, when it underwent maintenance and refurbishment.

Vivergo was established in 2007 as a joint venture between AB Sugar and BP, with 47% each, and Du Pont with a minority stake. The £350 million plant commenced operations in spring 2012, with AB Sugar acquiring BP’s shareholding in 2015. The factory has the capacity to convert 1.1 million tonnes of wheat into 420 million litres of bioethanol each year, with 500,000 tonnes of DDGS co-product for the animal feed market.

“I am extremely disappointed at having to announce the proposed cessation of production at the Vivergo Fuels plant,” states Vivergo managing director Mark Chesworth. “We have created a highly skilled and world-class business that had the opportunity to be part of a British sustainable biofuels industry. But sadly, the Government’s lack of pace over the past decade to introduce E10 has further undermined our ability to operate. My employees are my number one concern at this time and we have entered into consultation with them.

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank our workforce, past and present partners, growers and customers for their support since the creation of our plant in 2007.”