A second major carbon dioxide producer on Teesside could be about to offer a solution to the national shortage crippling the UK.
Ensus at Wilton can supply 40% of the UK’s entire demand of CO 2 – and bosses say the company is “doing its damnedest” to come back online following a routine shutdown.
Read more: Go here for the latest regional affairs and Teesside politics news
CF’s plant shut due to rising gas prices, along with its sister facility in Cheshire, halving CO 2 supplies overnight.
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng brokered a ‘temporary’ deal with the firm to protect the food industry, which could cost the taxpayer tens of millions of pounds.
Ensus says it could be back online by the beginning of next week – and the volume of CO 2 it produces could be enough to alleviate the crisis.
The company makes bioethanol for greener road fuel and CO 2 is a by-product of the process.
Grant Pearson, director of Ensus UK, said: “We have to have to do an annual shutdown, an MOT for the plant, which was planned six months ago.
“The beginning of next week is the target to come back online and it’s looking ok at the moment.”
CO 2 is used for critical sectors including nuclear and health services, as well as ‘non-critical’ markets such as fizzy drinks.
Grant added: “Once we’re back up and running we believe we can meet the needs of those core applications, so essentially take away the crisis.
“We make around 40% of the UK’s demand so we don’t fix the whole problem – but we are part of the solution.”
Energy costs are a “challenge” he added, as with many industries, but Ensus was not currently seeking any subsidies from Government.
“It isn’t going to prevent us restarting but if prices go higher, we will have to review that.
“It’s not without its challenges for any of us, these are unprecedented energy costs and they will be felt over time.
“Let’s hope some of the geo-political factors, in terms of gas from Russia, are resolved and that helps take some of the heat out of it.
“And let’s hope we don’t get another Beast from the East.
“Fingers are crossed at the moment. We’re not out of the woods yet.
“We are doing our best to get back online and get the CO 2 flowing again as fast as possible.”
CF Fertilisers said the plant will take “several days” to come back online safely.
Its US parent company, CF Industries, has said it is looking forward to working with the Government on a “longer-term” solution for industry.
Environment Secretary George Eustice said the Government stepped in to protect the food sector – and avoid a considerable “animal welfare challenge” posed by the disruption in CO 2 supply.
The gas is used by the meat industry to stun animals.
Mr Eustice told Sky News: “The truth is if we did not act then, by this weekend, or certainly by the early part of next week, some of the poultry processing plants would need to close and then we would have animal welfare issues – because you would have lots of chickens on farms that couldn’t be slaughtered on time and would have to be euthanised on farms, we would have a similar situation with pigs.
“There would have been a real animal welfare challenge here and a big disruption to the food supply chain, so we felt we needed to act.”
For the latest local breaking news direct to your inbox as it happens, go here to sign up to our free newsletter