A major new biorefinery in eastern England, which will consume more than one million tonnes of feed wheat a year, should enter commercial operation in late spring, Dave Richards, Managing Director of Vivergo Fuels Ltd said in an interview.

What we are saying to the market is late spring, he said. When we get up and running, we will want to get up to our full rate as soon and as safely as we can.

Vivergo Fuels is part-owned by BP, which has a 45 percent stake. Associated British Foods also owns 45 percent of the venture and DuPont owns 10 percent.

The biorefinery is located at Salt End, near Hull.

Richards said the company had already started commissioning the farm end of the plant where the first stage of the refinery process is conducted and an animal feed byproduct produced. There are two other processing sections before the renewable fuel is finally produced.

The biorefinery, which will be one of the biggest in Europe, is designed to turn 1.1 million tonnes of feed wheat each year into 420 million litres of bioethanol and 500,000 tonnes of mid-protein animal feed.

Richards said the refinery aimed to use UK feed wheat.

Within 50 miles (of the refinery) there are a couple of million tonnes of feed wheat (grown). We think over time we will take the majority of our wheat from within that zone, he said.

The wheat will be supplied by Frontier Agriculture, the UK's largest grain merchant, which is jointly owned by ABF and U.S. agribusiness giant Cargill while the animal feed will be marketed by KW Trident, a unit of ABF.

The fuel has two potential nearby customers with the ConocoPhillips Humber refinery and Total's Lindsey Oil Refinery, Richards said.

He said the bulk of the fuel would go out on ships, adding both of those refineries had coastal access. Other potential destinations for the fuel, however, include Rotterdam, the Mediterranean and Nordic regions.

We are very flexible in what we can do, he said.

FIRST STEP

Biofuels have been promoted as a way of reducing the emissions of greenhouse gases, which contribute to climate change, although scientists have argued that some may actually be worse for climate than conventional fuels.

There are good and bad biofuels. You have to be careful where you get your feedstock from and I would say ethanol from the right areas of the world, and Europe is one of those, has very high credentials on sustainability, Richards said.

He said the biorefinery would produce greenhouse gas savings of more than 50 percent, adding that ideally we want to be about 60 percent.

Richards said he expected many changes in the biofuels industry in coming years, but that it is vital to get the process underway with so-called first generation fuels that are generally made from food crops.

It is a very nascent industry. We are at the front end but I do think there will be lots of technological changes, lots of advancement as this goes forward so I would hope we would be a part of that, he said.

It is the first generation that can provide the funding for the second generation, Richards said.

(Reporting by Nigel Hunt; Editing by Alison Birrane)