Bord na Mona drops plan for €60 million pellet plant in Georgia

Bord na Mona (BNM) has decided not to proceed with a proposal to directly develop a new €60 million biomass pellet plant in the state of Georgia in the US.

The decision follows a recent assessment of BNM’s future sourcing and supply of peat and “sustainable biomass” for its three power stations.

As part of the assessment, the company is believed to have carried out “technical and commercial reviews of all its current and future biomass supplies”.

BNM will, instead, proceed with “a broadly-based biomass supply chain – with a clear preference for Irish supplies”.

A BNM spokesperson confirmed this decision in a statement to AgriLand.

“Bord na Mona confirms it has conducted an assessment of its biomass supply chain and has confirmed its preference for Irish supplies.

Following technical and commercial assessments, the company has decided not to directly develop a US-based biomass pellet plant.

“BNM confirms it has decided to proceed with a broadly-based biomass supply chain with imports supplementing Irish supply in the short to medium term.

“The company is now confident it has identified supplies of sustainable biomass capable of meeting demand from the three midlands power stations,” the statement said.

Making the announcement, BNM managing director Michael Barry said: “Transitioning to the hybrid peat-biomass model is critically important to the continuing ability of Bord na Mona to remain a substantial employer supporting thousands of jobs in the midlands.

“The transition to peat-biomass co-fuelling is also important from a national policy perspective, as it underpins national energy security and helps Ireland to meet its binding renewable energy target for 2020.

“We are already successfully co-fuelling our own Edenderry power station with peat and biomass, which has cut annual carbon emissions by 40%.

“Biomass demand from 2020 onwards is projected at 1.5 million tonnes. The considerable increase in volume will require imports to close the supply gap in the short to medium term. Maintaining a stable biomass supply is vital to supporting jobs in the peat business and across the midlands economy,” he said.

The company’s own power station at Edenderry co-fuels with peat and biomass.

The company also supplies the two ESB power stations in the midlands (Lough Ree and West Offaly Power), which currently use only peat as a fuel.

It is intended that both power stations will transition in 2020 to co-fuelling, with both peat and biomass.

Last September, BNM announced plans to invest up to €60 million in a proposed new wood pellet plant in Georgia. Had the project gotten the go-ahead, the company had hoped it would have been operational within two years.

BNM previously stated that the primary driver behind the Georgia plant was the sheer volume of the wood basket in the heavily afforested state; plus, the fact that wood-chip cannot be imported to Ireland from the US without being processed first.