Demand for peat briquettes soars due to March cold snap

Bord Na Móna says 47% surge in sales of fuel is unprecedented

John Kehoe (left) and James Connolly stack turf to dry on a bog near Portarlington, Co Laois. Bord na Móna says sales of peat briquettes have risen by nearly half on 2012 figures. Photograph: Alan Betson

John Kehoe (left) and James Connolly stack turf to dry on a bog near Portarlington, Co Laois. Bord na Móna says sales of peat briquettes have risen by nearly half on 2012 figures. Photograph: Alan Betson

Tue, Mar 26, 2013, 16:58

The cold snap isputting increased pressure on Bord na Móna, with demand for peat briquettes increasing 67 per cent in March.

Bord na Móna commercial manager Michael Coleman said he has seen an “unprecedented” surge in demand for briquettes, with average sales between January and March up 47 per cent on 2012.

Speaking at the company’s Derrinlough plant in Co Offaly yesterday, he said: “Normally we would have over 40,000 tons of briquettes in stock here. We don’t have it. We are selling more or less out of current production.”

He said briquette production is meeting demand despite the wet summer, which resulted in the poorest harvest in the company’s history - with just 37 per cent of the usual quantity of peat harvested.

During peak demand months, from November to January, Bord na Móna met a 30 per cent increase in demand for briquettes. Bitterly cold conditions in March have led to a 67 per cent rise on last year’s demand.

Apart from the poor 2012 harvest, Bord na Móna had to contend with another setback when a fire caused extensive damage to its briquette factory in Littleton, Co Tipperary, last December.

Mr Coleman said the ban on turf-cutting in special areas of conservation has also increased demand for peat briquettes.

A contingency plan has been put in place to maintain retailers’ stocks of briquettes that involves supplying some 5,500 outlets on a week-to-week basis.

Retailers fear stocks could run out if the cold weather continues. Michael Ganly of Ganly’s Hardware, which has three outlets in the midlands, said he is concerned about stock levels.

Pointing to conditions in Northern Ireland, he said: “If there is going to be a few days of bad weather like that in the midlands we are going to run out.”

He believes many people are switching to solid fuel as a result of oil price increases. Rather then pay hundreds of euro at a time for oil, some people are spending smaller amounts on a regular basis buying briquettes, logs, coal or wood pellets, he said.

“What has typically been happening in the market is people have been substituting [for] oil,” Mr Ganly said. “Our own sales of logs are up about 60 or 70 per cent on last year.”

He has seen a steady increase in demand for solid fuel stoves. “People are adapting to their pocket and it’s much easier to budget from week to week,” he said.

Bord na Móna said it is confident it can meet customer requirements through careful management of stocks.