Russian-owned Aughinish Alumina suspended from key European trading platform

Move comes after raft of sanctions against Russian companies and individuals

Aughinish Alumina, the Russian-owned Limerick refinery, was suspended from a key European greenhouse gas trading platform – despite the Taoiseach saying it was not impacted by sanctions.

Ministers were told this week that while operations continue as normal at the plant, it had its account suspended on the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS) platform in the wake of a raft of sanctions against Russian companies and individuals imposed by Brussels last month.

Government sources indicated that the company has appealed the decision to Brussels. However, Aughinish, which is ultimately controlled by oligarch Oleg Deripaska’s Rusal conglomerate, was silent when contacted on Wednesday.

Companies use the ETS to trade allowances equivalent to a tonne of C02, to ensure it has enough to cover its emissions, or face fines. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) runs access to the ETS for about 100 companies in Ireland who trade on the platform.

According to a briefing given to Ministers on Tuesday, in the wake of sanctions introduced at the end of last month, the European Directorate-General for Climate Action contacted the EPA here to ask whether any account holders matched definitions within the regulations introduced.

It asked that the EPA suspend any companies if they did. The EPA later took a decision to suspend Aughinish Alumina’s access to its ETS account, although it continues to operate as normal, Cabinet was told.

Not included

Speaking to reporters in Limerick earlier this week, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said Aughinish Alumina is not included in sanctions. "They have not been included in the sanctions regime on the basis of their strategic importance to Europe and that should be an important reassurance to them."

Mr Martin also rejected a private call from the Ukrainian ambassador to Ireland to shut down the facility, made at the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party meeting last week by Ukrainian ambassador Larysa Gerasko.

It is not clear why the company was caught up in the fallout, given statements from the Taoiseach that it is not subject to sanctions. There are about 450 full-time staff at the plant, and hundreds more contractors.

Executives at Aughinish Alumina did not comment on the matter when contacted on Wednesday. Aileen O'Connell, the plant manager, told The Irish Times that she could not speak, while Ciaran Kelleher, the plant's administration manager, said "I can't comment on that" when contacted. "I'd like to discontinue this phone call," he added.

Asked about the issue, a spokesman for Minister for the Environment Eamon Ryan said that the regulator is independent to the Government, so the department is not in a position to comment.

The EPA said that as the national administrator for the system in Ireland, it is not at liberty to discuss details on any specific account.

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones is a political reporter with The Irish Times