UK wheat-to-ethanol plant officially opens for business

By Holly Jessen | July 10, 2013

The Vivergo Fuels Ltd. wheat-to-ethanol plant in Hull, United Kingdom, is officially open and operating. The 420 MMlly (110 MMgy) facility was built for more than $448 million and is a joint venture between AB Sugar, BP and DuPont Industrial Biosciences.

DuPont was proud to be a part of the project, which utilizes state-of-the-art science and technology, James Collins, president of DuPont Industrial Biosciences said in a press release. “While the demand for transportation energy will continue to grow, the supply of affordable petroleum will not,” he said. “To meet the needs of a growing population, we need to use existing resources more effectively and find better ways to harness renewable energy sources, like those that come from agriculture.”

The ethanol produced at the facility in a year is equivalent to one-third of the current demand for ethanol in the UK. Compared to standard gasoline, the ethanol produced will offer greenhouse gas (GHG) savings of more than 50 percent.

The feedstock for the plant is animal feed grade wheat, which was previously exported. A total of 500,000 metric tons of distillers grains will be produced yearly for the UK market, an amount sufficient to feed about one-fifth of the UK’s dairy herd.

Phillip New, BP’s vice president for alternative energy, called the plant’s startup environmentally, socially and economically important to the country. “Vivergo is one of Europe’s most sophisticated ethanol plants,” he said, “and it is a great example of today’s biofuel technology turning the starch from wheat into ethanol and producing high-quality animal feed as a coproduct.”

Praj Industries Ltd. provided the license for the technology as well as basic engineering and some equipment, including the core process block of liquefaction, fermentation, distillation, multi-effect evaporation and molecular sieve dehydration. The company said in a separate press release that the facility is highly efficient, with a unique integrated distillation, dehydration and evaporation system, which reduces energy consumption, including a 30 to 40 percent reduction in water and steam use. Praj designed, manufactured and assembled certain ready-to-install equipment at the company’s facility in India and then shipped them to the UK for on-site installation.

The facility was built on a 25-acre brownfield re-development site, Vivergo Fuels said in its press release. The company employs about 80-full time employees and supports more than 1,000 additional jobs through the supply chain. Through a recruitment program created in collaboration with local authorities and training providers, unemployed local people were given training and on-the-job experience, six of which were hired full time. “Our business is a great example of sustainable economic growth, ensuring that valuable commodities such as bioethanol and animal feed which ordinarily would have been imported are produced here in the UK,” said David Richards, managing director of Vivergo. “We are proud to be the first major renewables investment to become operational in the Humber region, cementing its position as the UK’s Energy Estuary.”