An extra 60 new jobs have been announced by a leading manufacturer of smokeless solid fuel products for the domestic heating market.
The jobs will be at a new €22m plant in Co Limerick, where one of the components of the low smoke coal is olive stones.
UK Company CPL Industries announced a major investment in Foynes two years ago with the promise of 142 jobs, but that project was jeopardised by the then lack of government regulations on smokeless fuels.
The designation last month of Ireland as a smokeless zone has meant the company can now proceed with its plans for a €22m plant for manufacturing low-smoke coal in Foynes, Co. Limerick.
In addition, the company has revealed plans for Phase II of its investment in Ireland with an announcement of a further €15million to be spent on developing pyrolysis units for transforming waste and biomass into raw materials for low-smoke coal.
The latest announcement will bring to just over 200 the number of people employed by the company in Ireland by 2018.
“We announced our plans for this investment in 2013 and made no secret since of our dissatisfaction and frustration over the lack of progress on implementing carbon tax relief (for products with minimum biomass content) as well as delays in a Smokeless Ireland designation and planning difficulties. We had even begun to look at other options for the facility outside the State such were our concerns,” revealed company CEO Tim Minett.
“However, with the arduous planning process now complete and the carbon tax derogation announced in last year’s budget due to be brought into legislation shortly, the Smokeless Ireland designation was the missing piece in the jigsaw. The announcement by Minister Kelly last month has now put that in place. This was initially a North-South initiative but I compliment Minister Kelly and his Department for having the foresight to press ahead and declare a ban on smoky coal products within two years. Together with the carbon tax initiative introduced in by Minister Noonan, who has been equally supportive of and determined to secure this project, this has given us the market certainty that we needed.”
The plans were revealed on Thursday in conjunction with Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government Alan Kelly, T.D., in Foynes, which CPL stated has the potential to become a low-smoke fuel hub for Northern Europe, given the expected number of coal mines closures in the coming years.
“A 500,000 tonne domestic market awaits due to the smoky coal ban but we see export opportunities as well as subsidies for coal mines will end in Germany, for example, in 2018, resulting in the closure of mines there. This will result in a market of hundreds of thousands of tonnes alone coming on stream and we believe Foynes and Ireland is well placed to go for that market with this and other low-smoke alternatives,”continued Mr Minett.
The biggest winner, however, from the smoky coal ban will be the thousands nationwide who suffer from respiratory illnesses, he said.
"Extending the smoky coal ban nationwide will be a game-changer for people suffering from respiratory illnesses. Ireland has the fourth highest rate of asthma in the world and the Asthma Society of Ireland estimates that 2,000 lives are lost here each year from smoky coal pollution so the ban on smoky coal will save lives," he added.
Speaking at the launch, Minister Kelly said, “Introducing the smoky coal ban was an imperative for me on the grounds that it will save lives. But to have the industry, through CPL, respond so quickly by giving the go ahead to build this plant and create 142 jobs initially, with a commitment now of a second phase with a further 60 jobs, is an emphatic outcome also. CPL is a dynamic, successful UK based company and could have made this investment in any of a number of other locations across Europe but they have chosen here in Foynes and that’s a real boost for this region.”
“These will be much valued jobs in this part of Co. Limerick but the investment will also support the farming sector as biomass will be one of the raw materials used in making the coals. The investment is, of course, being made here in Foynes for one key strategic reason - direct access to a deep water port for importing raw materials and exporting end product.”
Minister Kelly added that CPL’s latest announcement was “convincing validation” of the Vision 2041 masterplan for Shannon Foynes Port Company, which envisages the creation of thousands of jobs over the life-term of the plan.