Irish Cement plan to change fuel use at Limerick faces opposition

Group opposes bid to change manufacturing process due to firm’s ‘poor record’

Irish Cement: says its factory in Limerick “now the only cement factory in Ireland not using alternative fuels”. Photograph: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

Irish Cement: says its factory in Limerick “now the only cement factory in Ireland not using alternative fuels”. Photograph: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

 

The “poor environmental record” of Irish Cement’s plant in Limerick must be taken fully into account by the planning appeals authority, An Bord Pleanála, when determining whether it is allowed to change its manufacturing process, according to the main campaign group opposing the application.

“Because of the plant’s recent poor environmental record, we don’t trust them to be given a new licence where the process is far more specialised,” said Limerick Against Pollution spokeswoman Claire Keating in advance of an oral hearing next week.

The group is opposing Irish Cement's application to allow for replacement of fossil fuels through the use of lower carbon alternatives at its plant in Mungret. The project is costed at €10 million.

Irish Cement has sought an operational licence to burn up to 90,000 tons of tyres, plastic, industrial solvents and other forms of solid recovered waste.

The gradual replacement of fossil fuel was crucial for the future viability of the plant, it has said.

Limerick Against Pollution welcomed the decision to stage an oral hearing, such were the environmental concerns of many people living in the vicinity of the plant and in Limerick city.

Among their ranks are many residents associations, local schools and parents councils, Ms Keating added. A number of local politicians are due to outline their concerns at the hearing at the South Court Hotel, Limerick, on August 29th.

Licence review application

The Environmental Protection Agency has confirmed that it received a licence review application in May 2016 from the company to co-incinerate waste-derived fuels at the site. To date it has received more than 2,800 submissions on the licence-review application. As planning permission associated with the co-incineration of waste is currently under review, the EPA cannot make a decision on the matter until appeal at An Bord Pleanála is complete, a spokeswoman said.

In July the EPA launched a new enforcement initiative to drive further environmental compliance at industrial and waste facilities. The Limerick plant was one of five licensed facilities with the poorest compliance status, and listed among “National Priority Sites” for further enforcement action.

Irish Cement said it did not wish to comment specifically on the hearing at this point. Its factory in Limerick is “now the only cement factory in Ireland not using alternative fuels”, it has pointed out. Use of these fuel sources over the next decade could see the replacement of up to 50 per cent of imported fossil fuels currently used in Limerick’s existing cement kiln, it added. It would also directly reduce CO2 emissions from the factory. “In common with all industries, the cement industry in Europe has to meet its obligations to reduce CO2 emissions and this initiative could see a saving of up to 40,000 tonnes of CO2 a year.”

Continuous assessment

There had been continuous investment on the site upgrading systems . The factory is a modern, energy-efficient facility that operates in compliance with its industrial emissions licence, it said.

The main flame temperature inside the kiln is more than 2,000 degrees and the raw materials (nearly a million tons per year of powdered rock) must reach a temperature of more than 1,450 degrees. The process of replacing fossil fuels in cement kilns is standard practice throughout Europe.

There is now more than 40 years of evidence from Europe to show that using alternative fuels is a safe practice, it noted. “Irish Cement is confident, based on the experience around Europe (and in Ireland since 2008), the high temperatures at which we operate and the modern systems in place, that there will be no change in emissions from the factory in Limerick.”