Thursday, September 05, 2019

BÓRD na Móna has unveiled full details of its controversial plans for a massive anaerobic digester near Portlaoise.

In-depth details for the Clonkeen project, which has already met widespread public opposition, are contained in a preplanning notice published by the semi-state company.

Four large waste digestion tanks measuring up to 22 metres high and a digestion pond with a capacity for more than 55 million litres of waste are included in the plans.

As expected, the lengthy public notice confirms that the company intends to seek planning permission for the huge development on a seven-hectare site at Coolnamona bog on the Mountrath Road, about 2kms from Portlaoise. Once the planning application is submitted to Laois Co Council, it can be inspected by the public at County Hall, Portlaoise.

The proposed anaerobic digester, located in the townlands of Clonkeen and Clonboyne, will convert food and organic waste into biogas for heating purposes.

Bórd na Móna, which owns major waste collection firm AES, estimates that the digester would take in about 80,000 tonnes of food waste collected by AES each year, which, when converted into gas, would produce enough heat for about 5,500 homes.

According to the public notice, the renewable gas production facility at Clonkeen would include a waste digestion pond with a capacity of more than 55 million litres. There will be a total of four waste digestion tanks. The two primary tanks would each rise to 22 metres with a capacity of 6,500 cubic metres, while two secondary tanks would be 18 metres high with a capacity of 5,650 litres.

The gas production facility would also contain a 1,300sq.m gas upgrade injection plant and a covered ‘digestate lagoon’ with a capacity of 55,100 cubic metres.

Other proposed facilities include a 400sq.m outdoor abatement structure for waste, measuring 18 metres in height, together with surface water and underground water/wastewater ponds. Two buffer storage structures would be six metres high, while four liquid feed intake tanks would rise to 12 metres.

The planning application will include ancillary facilities such as a 3,500sq.m circulation yard with car parking, a total of 1,420 metres of boundary fencing and the upgrade of an internal site access road. Proposed external road upgrades include a new roundabout on the R445 Portlaoise-Mountrath road.

Bord na Móna will seek permission for the gas production facility at Clonkeen for a period of ten years. The facility will also require an industrial emissions licence from the Environmental Protection Agency, together with an environmental impact assessment and a natural impact statement.

The preplanning notice follows two public consultation meetings, which led to a number of revisions to the proposed plans. However, the revisions failed to quell opposition from residents in the area and from public representatives.

At their July monthly meeting, all seven Portlaoise municipal district elected members voiced loud opposition and unanimously backed a motion calling on Bord na Móna to shelve the plans immediately.

Cllr Willie Aird, who proposed the motion, said local residents were “absolutely incensed” at the plans, while cllr Catherine Fitzgerald said the anaerobic digester could “destroy people’s lives and the environment” and was “a slap in the face” for Portlaoise. Cllr Mary Sweeney said Bórd na Móna had “an unbelievable cheek” to try to impose the Clonkeen plans, despite widespread public concern.

Councillors said their main concerns were the proximity of the plant to a large number of housing estates, increased heavy vehicle traffic and bad odours caused by trucks carrying tonnes of animal slurry and food waste.

When it first unveiled the Clonkeen project, Bord na Móna said it would cease harvesting peat by 2030 and planned to use its lands for the development of ‘green sustainable energy sources.’ It said the proposed anaerobic digester near Portlaoise would contribute to renewable energy targets and assist in the reduction of carbon emissions.

The semi-state company said: “The proposed project will bring significant environmental benefits, through the sustainable treatment and conversion of non-hazardous, biodegradable, organic waste materials into a renewable biogas.”

The types of waste materials converted into biogas in Clonkeen could include animal slurries, crops, food waste and food processing residues, as well as domestic and commercial food waste.

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By Carmel Hayes
Contact Newsdesk: +353 57 86 70216

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