€20m smokeless fuel plant to be operating by summer 2017 in Limerick

Foynes facility will provide 60 jobs as well as opportunities for local suppliers

Colm Ward

Reporter:

Colm Ward

€20m smokeless fuel plant to be operating by summer 2017 in Limerick

Eddie Scaife, Bord an Mona’s head of fuels: market for smokeless fuels to increase significantly when nationwide smoky coal ban comes into force

BORD na Mona expects to have its new €20m smokeless fuel manufacturing plant in Foynes up and running by summer 2017.

The plant will employ 60 people at full capacity, with an additional 140 employed in construction. Local farmers and other landowners could also benefit by being able to supply the plant with some of the biomass it will need to manufacture the fuels.

Head of fuels with Bord na Mona, Eddie Scaife, said the company planned to source the biomass materials locally where possible.

These materials could include specialised crops like miscanthus (elephant grass) or fast growing forestry. However, the precise quantity and mix of materials to be used is yet to be determined.

“We haven't definitively decided on what types. We will be experimenting with a range of different products but they would be broadly biomass, wood-based products. We would be looking at a number of things to get the right blend,” said Mr Scaife.

The company expects that demand for smokeless fuels will increase significantly from 2018 when a nationwide ban on smoky coal comes into force. Currently the ban only applies to larger urban areas.

“Roughly three-quarters of the market at the moment is smoky fuel. That will all have to move to a smokeless variant,” Mr Scaife explained.

“At the moment there isn’t the capacity in the market to provide that fuel so that is the main driving force for us to build the plant,” he added.

“It also gives us the opportunity to start introducing biomass into that fuel so it makes it that bit cleaner, that bit greener.”

The proposed plant in Foynes would manufacture smokeless fuel by combining anthracite with biomass materials.

“Wherever we can source locally and move products a short distance is the best option,” Mr Scaife added.

The fact that the anthracite and other materials to be used in the process can be shipped directly into Foynes port was one of the factors behind the decision to locate there.

“We would have a substantial business in the Munster area so for us it would be an ideal location to base our manufacturing process going forward.”

Bord na Mona currently employs 13 people at its storage and bagging depot in Foynes and Mr Scaife said the company had a good relationship with Shannon Foynes Port Company. Plans to improve road and rail links to Foynes should also benefit the plant in the future.

“The ability to move goods around the country on the back of our motorway infrastructure helps substantially and we would see that as being an important part to it as well,” said Mr Scaife.

At full capacity, the new plant will be capable of producing up to 150,000 tonnes of smokeless fuels every year.

According to Mr Scaife, the end product will produce 10 times less smoke than the traditional bituminous coal that many households currently use.

In relation to potential emissions from the plant, he insisted that the impact on local air quality would be “not significant”.

“We have looked at noise, we have looked at potential flooding. So, we have gone through quite a rigorous assessment of our plans and we’ve all come through the necessary hurdles so we are pretty confident that it will be a very clean, efficient, low impact plant,” he said.

When the plant is completed, Foynes will be home to two major smokeless fuel production facilities. Work is currently underway on a similar facility being developed by CPL fuels which is expected to employ over 140 people when it is up and running.