Grant Pearson, Commercial Director of Ensus, looks back on 2020 and sets out his hopes for this year
Last year was a challenge for us all, both as individuals and businesses. One small benefit was that Transport GHG emissions and air pollution went down substantially. However, it meant demand for Ensus’s sustainable green fuel fell also (down to 25% of normal levels a couple of weeks after the first lockdown, recovering over the summer to 90% and then falling back to around 70%). We stayed on line, managed the major challenges with customers and suppliers, and did not furlough any staff. We managed to avoid having to take advantage of Government support mechanisms such as deferring rates or VAT.
Ensus, and I believe British Sugar, acted quickly to amend our manufacturing processes to help address the hand sanitiser shortage, and we continue to so, but it didn’t make up for the shortfall in fuel demand. Nevertheless a good demonstration of British flexibility and the benefits of having local British production.
The roll out of the vaccination campaign has given British Bioethanol another opportunity to contribute to the country as it requires a lot of dry ice, much of it made from CO2 supplied from our plants.
It was disappointing not to have seen more progress on E10 last year. Had it been available in 2020, things would have been a lot easier for Ensus, plus there’d have been less GHG emitted, more British cattle fed with British produced proteins and more British jobs protected.
We’re now expecting an announcement on E10 next month, for an introduction in September this year. The consultation closed over 8 months ago, and demonstrated clear support from stakeholders for a 2021 introduction. E10 – petrol with up to 10% bioethanol – will allow the British Bioethanol Industry to go on to contribute even more to the UK.
Firstly, in maintaining and growing jobs in the NE of England on Teesside and the Humber; we’re told that in a post-Brexit world, the focus of British Agriculture will change. We can support that change and the farmers who will bring it about, through our strong links as a customer and supplier to the many, many farms we deal with on a daily basis. A robust British Bioethanol industry can play a big part, as the Government looks to level up post-Brexit.
Secondly – in further reducing GHG emissions from road transport. Also in Q 1 of this year, DfT should publish its consultation on the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation. This will propose an increase in target levels, which I hope will be brave and ambitious. The Government has shown its willing to be ambitious in its plans for electrification and the 10 point green plan. We are supportive of both. But let’s see the same splendid ambition for fuels as is shown for electrification. We need not stop at E10. We can then strive for E20, and E85. Terrific progress has been made with E85 in France, where more bioethanol is consumed in this high blend, than in the regular E10. And beyond that – ED95, a fuel grade containing up to 95% ethanol used in trucks – is also a possibility.
Thirdly, we can deliver bioethanol with even lower carbon intensity. The GHG saving obligation, was a key driver in getting producers, such as ourselves, to strive to further improve the green footprint of our fuels so they deliver even greater emissions savings. But the policy ended last year. We understand why Government was not able to follow through on its intention to retain this important policy. Without it we risk the UK becoming the dumping ground for low GHG-saving biofuels, so Government needs to reinstate the GHG regulations, and to do so as soon as possible.
Looking to 2021 and beyond, the potential benefits to the UK of a strong and vibrant biorefinery industry are many. To give some examples
- We at Ensus are working with the Net Zero Teesside project on CCSU and developing a hydrogen industry and E-fuels
- We’re helping the chemical industry address their Net Zero ambitions, as part of the Society of Chemicals Industry’s Renewables Project
- We’re investing in research in the production of Sustainable Aviation Fuel, to address the aviation challenge. Hopefully we’ll go on to become a producer of SAF.
One final area of focus is to ensure that the industry can continue to operate on a level playing field when it comes to international trade. We thank the Government for continuing to engage constructively in this area, particularly given the many Free Trade Agreement discussions that are ongoing.
But it all comes back to E10. To have the confidence to make these things happen, to protect the many jobs – both direct and indirect – and to bring forward the many millions of pounds of future investment, we are depending on E10 being introduced in 2021. We stand ready to make sure it’s done smoothly and is a moment of celebration for the Government and country in taking the UK forwards in its green agenda.