The Energy Research Centre at NUI Galway to Support New Product Development
BioSpark, the newly-formed joint venture between Imperative Energy Ltd and Sustainable BioPolymers Ltd, is today announcing its intention to invest €40 million in the development of a next generation bio-processing research, innovation and manufacturing centre at Claremorris, County Mayo, which will create 180 new high value jobs within the local and regional economy with the realistic potential to grow to 300 jobs within three years.
The BioSpark development, which is to be located at a 22-acre site close to the town of Claremorris, will incorporate the following elements:
- 20,000 tonne per annum bio-processing facility, utilising next generation technologies and techniques for the conversion of organic material such as straw and wood biomass into multiple high value bio-based products such as ethanol, lactic acid, lignin, methane and hydrogen
- state-of-the-art laboratory facilities for bio-processing research and innovation
- 60,000 tonne per annum wood pellet production facility, which will be the largest and most advanced on the island of Ireland
- 20MWth/5MWe CHP plant which will be fired on biomass and connected to the national grid via a sub-station in close proximity to the site
- 17 commercial units to house a cluster of related business ventures.
The co-location of all of these elements is specifically designed to extract the maximum value from locally produced biomass in a model that is completely sustainable from both an environmental and an economic point of view. The biomass is used to produce industrial bulk and speciality bio-based compounds, which today are predominantly derived from the refining of oil, and which form essential inputs for a wide range of major global industries from pharmaceuticals to paints and plastics. At the same time, the biomass is also used to generate large quantities of renewable heat and power, making the whole facility not only completely self-sufficient in terms of its energy use, but also providing enough green energy to support district heating and cooling systems for the Claremorris area.
Making the announcement The Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Mary Coughlan T.D., said: The impact of 180 high level jobs in County Mayo cannot be over emphasised. Certainly the construction jobs during the building phase will be a boost to the local economy; however, it is the sustainable jobs of the ultimate workforce that will be a real driver to the local and regional economy."
"The BioSpark project is not just impressive at a County Mayo level, this is a project that will impress on an international scale and sends a strong message that the conditions are right for new businesses to setup in Ireland. Bioprocessing has been talked about for some time but this is the first real manifestation of a commercial scale facility with such a strong focus on innovation and R&D", the Tánaiste added.
The total development will cost €40m and will be constructed over the next two years, subject to planning approval. The regional and national impact of the development will be:
- 120 jobs during construction
- 80 full-time positions post-construction – mostly high skilled, engineering roles engaged in R&D, manufacturing and operations management
- 100 upstream jobs in harvesting, transportation and supply chain management
- a further potential 120 high value jobs at the BioSpark Claremorris centre within three years of its completion, as new business ventures are spun off
- €18m yearly spend on locally sourced goods and services
- significant Intellectual Property (IP) relating to process enhancements as well as new product developments, which will be primarily coordinated through the Energy Research Centre at NUI Galway
- significant displacement of imported fossil fuels and fossil fuel derived products
- ready availability of green energy to the Claremorris area to support further inward investment in commercial, industrial and residential developments, similar to well-established district heating schemes in countries like Sweden and Finland.
Professor Vincent O'Flaherty is Director of the Energy Research Centre at NUI Galway and says there are many future returns to be had from today's announcement: "Ireland's geographical location, our natural resources and our existing research base put us in a very strong position to take full advantage of the emerging green knowledge economy. This project is world-class and the ideal platform for Ireland to develop high-tech solutions for the global sustainable energy market. Our research centre's multi-disciplinary team looks forward to working with BioSpark to maximize its R&D potential".
Bio-processing builds on one of Ireland's natural competitive advantages – our ability to grow biomass quicker and more productively than anywhere else in Europe – and BioSpark is designed to maximise the value that be gained from that fact. The BioSpark development at Claremorris is the first of a number of similar facilities that the promoters of the project – Imperative Energy Ltd and Sustainable Biopolymers Ltd - are planning to replicate across Ireland, the UK and North America.