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Plans for £150m UK bio-resources-to-fuel facility approved

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Plans to build the UK’s first commercial-scale Bio-Substitute Natural Gas (BioSNG) plant have been approved by the council.

Cheshire West & Chester Council’s planning committee gave the green light to the £150 million (€174.2 million) project at Peel Environmental's Protos site in Ellesmere Port, which will generate renewable gas from up to 175,000 tonnes of bio-resources, such as unrecyclable wood and refuse-derived fuel (RDF).

The plant is being developed by independent UK clean energy company Progressive Energy and will generate enough fuel to power up to 1,000 low-carbon heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) and buses every year. It is hoped the project will create around 300 jobs at the Protos site during construction, with 35 full-time permanent, high-skilled jobs.

Protos sits within the Energy Innovation District (EID), which brings together energy users, network owners, innovators and partners working alongside Cheshire & Warrington LEP, Cheshire West and Chester Council and the University of Chester. The EID is developing a £300 million (€348.5 million) project to create a smart local energy system to boost energy cost savings and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

As well as being used as a transport fuel, BioSNG can be a replacement for natural gas that is currently supplied to homes and businesses. It can be injected into the existing gas network, providing the opportunity for the plant at Protos to export fuel to the wider UK.

“Decarbonising the transport sector is going to be critical if we’ve any chance of reaching net zero emissions by 2050,” said Chris Manson-Whitton of Progressive Energy. “We’re still hugely reliant on fossil fuels in the sector which, together with heat, accounts for around three-quarters of UK energy consumption.

“Today’s decision is a huge step forward to providing a reliable and renewable gas for transport fleets across the North West and beyond. This is just the first of many BioSNG plants that could be built across the country, helping to transform our transport sector and make a huge contribution to tackling climate change.”

Jayne Hennessy of Peel Environmental (part of Peel L&P) added: “This is another example of how Cheshire is leading the way on the clean growth agenda. Decarbonising the region, and safeguarding the industry and jobs, is going to require many innovative solutions.

“Progressive Energy’s ground-breaking project will be a great fit for Protos where we’re clustering together low carbon energy generation to drive down the cost of clean energy and attract new businesses, jobs and investment.”