Europe's largest wheat-based ethanol plant to begin operations

By Erin Voegele | December 09, 2009
Report posted Dec. 23, 2009, at 9:10 a.m. CST

Europe's largest wheat-based ethanol plant is preparing to begin full-scale production. The facility, which is owned by Ensus Ltd., has an annual production capacity of 400 MMly (106 MMgy) of ethanol and 350,000 metric tons (386,000 tons) of distillers grains. According to Ensus Chief Executive Alwyn Hughes, the Wilton, Teesside, U.K.-based facility is currently in the commissioning stage, and is expected to enter full-scale production in Jan. 2010.

A study recently completed by Ensus and published in the scientific journal "Global Change Biology - Bioenergy" highlights the potential for using idle EU farm land to reduce the demand for cropland outside Europe. According to the study, refining European wheat to produce ethanol and high protein animal feed will reduce the region's growing demand for soy meal imports, which can help reduce pressure on the world's threatened rainforests.

Hughes said the high-protein distillers grains produced at Ensus' facility will offset a significant portion of the soy currently imported into Europe. According to Ensus, most of this soy meal is currently imported from South America, where it is often grown on carbon rich or deforested land.

Ensus estimates the facility will support more than 2,000 jobs both directly and indirectly in agriculture, transport, engineering and services. The plant will also support local farmers by taking in more than 1 million tons of wheat each year.

The ethanol plant will also provide environmental benefits. According to Hughes, more than 300,000 tons of carbon dioxide produced at the plant will be captured and used by the food and beverage industries, improving the plant's carbon footprint. Ensus estimates that the plant's effort to reduce carbon emissions will be equivalent to removing 300,000 cars from the highways. The company attributes 60 percent of its greenhouse gas emission savings to ethanol's replacement of petroleum-based fuels, with additional savings resulting from using a wheat-based animal feed rather than soy meal.