The Ensus bioethanol plant confirmed that, backed by "significantly improved" market conditions, it was restarting – for a fourth time – even as ideas of its main feedstock, UK feed wheat, ticked higher.
The Ensus plant - on which backers including private equity group Carlyle swallowed a hefty loss selling to German-based CropEnergies in July – is this week to begin building up production of bioethanol, after the completion of maintenance work.
"Market conditions have significantly improved meaning the process of getting the plant up to full production can now begin," the site said, although it stopped short of saying when it would reach full production, a process which typically takes some months.
At full throttle, the site consumes some 100,000 tonnes of grain a month, with wheat historically the main feedstock although, thanks to price differentials during its last opening period, which finished in April, it brought corn into the mix too.
Ensus, which can use "a variety of grains", confirmed to Agrimoney.com on Monday that it would continue to change the composition of its feedstock, depending on "availability", and for "commercial and technical reasons".
However, the plant said that "the majority of the grain used will be UK wheat".
The UK was chosen as a site for the plant, and for the nearby BP- and Dupont-backed Vivergo plant of a similar size, in part because of the country's status as a producer of large quantities of feed wheat.
In France, the European Union's top wheat producer, soft milling wheat makes up a large proportion of the crop, with second-ranked Germany producing mainly hard milling wheat.
Downgraded to feed
The UK wheat crop this year was in fact of above-average quality on many criteria, with 37% of the crop making full milling specifications, compared with 4% in rainy 2012, early test results showed.
However, late harvested wheat has shown some deterioration, after the return of rains this month.
"In the last week, we have had reports of occasional crops of poor second wheats with specific weights down to less than 66 kilogrammes per hectolitre," consultancy Adas said on Monday.
"There are occasional reports of late harvested second wheat crops having high levels of screenings," with some milling wheat failing the limit of 4% small kernels, and being downgraded to feed.
This deterioration is "potentially where there has been late secondary tillering in thin crops, or where crops were put under water stress in July, both of which prevented grains from reaching full size", Adas said, but added that the problem was "not widespread".