Plans to develop a smokeless fuel manufacturing plant in Foynes that could create up to 140 jobs have been put on hold after An Taisce lodged an objection with An Bord Pleanala.
But the managing director of the company behind the scheme has said that, while they are “frustrated” by the delay, they remain committed to the project.
Last month, CPL Fuels got planning permission from Limerick City and County Council to go ahead with the proposed plant, but this was subsequently appealed by An Taisce.
It is understood that the objection relates to the fact that the facility will use coal as one of its raw materials, which will contribute to Ireland’s carbon emissions.
“Even though smokeless fuel is seen as being less damaging for our health, in terms of climate change, all forms of burning coal are bad. We have got to decarbonise ourselves,” a spokesperson for An Taisce said.
However, CPL managing director Niall McGuinness said it was “not realistic” to attempt to impose a blanket ban on coal-based fuels.
He pointed out that the process to be used in the Foynes plant would combine bituminous coal with biomass crops to produce a smokeless fuel that would produce “80% less pollutant smoke” than the coal that is currently being burned in most households.
“We could reduce by 50% the amount of bituminous coal currently being imported into Ireland,” Mr McGuinness claimed.
He added that the company was seeking a meeting with An Taisce in the hope that they could address the group’s concerns and that, ultimately, the objection could be withdrawn.
“The fuels produced at the plant will be smokeless, low in CO2 and will be widely available before the announced ban on smoky coal in Ireland is implemented. For every tonne of eCoal50 burned, a tonne of carbon is saved. If low carbon fuels such as these were to replace coal burning in Ireland, this would achieve a saving of at least 200,000 tonnes of carbon,” Mr McGuinness added.
He said the objection was unexpected as An Taisce had not made any input to the original planning process.
“This is really difficult to explain to international investors,” he said. However, he added: “My board is still fully committed to providing smokeless fuels, but there is a huge amount of frustration”.