Government urged to save biodiesel plant

Trade union Unite is urging the Scottish government to save a biodiesel plant.

European biodiesel producer, Argent Energy, has entered consultation on plans to end production at its biodiesel plant in Motherwell, Scotland.

The company supplies biodiesel to Stagecoach and Metroline buses, as well as Eddie Stobart.

It described the team at its Motherwell facility as ‘excellent’, but said external factors affecting the UK and EU biodiesel market have driven the decision to close the plant.

Argent is to concentrate the business on what it describes as its other, ‘better situated’ locations. The company is focusing its efforts on supporting all affected employees.

Argent’s Motherwell biodiesel operation is where Argent Energy’s story started back in 2005, producing 45,000 tonnes of waste-based biodiesel each year, before later expanding in 2016. Argent’s second plant in Ellesmere Port is located on the Manchester Ship Canal and its third is strategically positioned in the Port of Amsterdam. An expansion of the Dutch facility is underway with initial plans to triple capacity.

The main external conditions that the company says has substantially weakened the environment for European and UK biodiesel production are:

  • Unprecedented competition from imported Chinese biodiesel that benefits from state economic support and subsidies.
  • Approvals by HMRC for major UK fuel suppliers to utilise Inward Processing relief and avoid the normal 6.5% duty for imported biodiesel. This is also estimated to have led to lost Treasury revenue of around £150 million in 2023.
  • The removal of trade defence measures by the UK after Brexit on renewable diesel from the USA, that competes with UK biodiesel. This has resulted in an increase of imports of subsidised US-made product of nearly half a million tonnes.
  • Post Brexit the inability for the UK to import category 1 tallow – Argent’s main feedstock – from the EU, due to EU regulations.

“This has been the hardest decision for us to make and is one we have not taken lightly” – Chief Executive Officer, Louise Calviou

Chief Executive Officer, Louise Calviou, said “This has been the hardest decision for us to make and is one we have not taken lightly. After careful consideration of market conditions and our strategic goals for global decarbonisation efforts, we believe it is a necessary step we need to take. We and our shareholder remain dedicated to our ambitious growth plans, and our mission to displace as much fossil fuel as possible continues.”

Unite general secretary, Sharon Graham, said: “Argent Energy workers based at Newarthill are exactly the type of workforce supposed to be spearheading the march to greener jobs. The Scottish government needs to step in now or else its green jobs strategy will be in ruins. Unite will do all we possibly can to explore every option to keep the plant open.”

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