Lisahally £26m biogas plant would be largest in UK and EU flagship

A BREADY based firm wants to build the largest biogas facility in the UK at Lisahally and says it will be a European flagship if it’s given a green light.

Ecoventi says 500 people are already working on different aspects of the project and that it will be a flagship for all future Anaerobic Digestion developments in Europe if it goes ahead.

It will lead to a £26m investment in Northern Ireland’s energy infrastructure and will result in the production of 5 megawatts of power on its own - the equivalent production of the largest wind turbines on the planet.

Ecoventi Chief Executive Gary Blythe wrote to the planners before Christmas urging them to consider approving phase 1 of the development.

This will allow the company to build a compound where winter beet - currently under production in Cork - will be stored prior to the construction of the biogas plant proper.

Mr Blythe wrote: “Upon completion it will be the largest installation of its kind in the UK and a flagship for all future Anaerobic Digestion developments in Europe.”

“Critical to the success of the project depends on many different parties working in cooperation to meet strict deadlines - we estimate there are over 500 people currently working on individual components of the project.”

Back in November 2011 Ecoventi contracted ‘Ecobeet’ to start producing feedstock over 5000 acres of land in Cork.

According to Mr Blythe 50 farms are already involved in producing the winter fodder.

“In September 2012 we started harvesting the beet crop for delivery to the port commencing on December 15, 2012,” he stated.

Mr Blythe argues the storage clamp will also help to address the current shortage of animal feed in NI, which is the result of the wet summer last year.

He also wrote that it would be good news for Londonderry port in that it would boost dwindling imports. Ecoventi intends shipping the beet up from Cork.

“We accept that phase 2 will be decided on its own merits, however, the approval and impementation of phase 1 is essential considering the current feedstock crisis,” he wrote.

“The alternative to this proposal would be to transport the feedstock regularly via road, which logistically is not feasible due to the quantum/transport costs involved and driving restrictions imposed on haulage firms.”

He also claimed that “Ecoventi’s ability to address a fundamental agri-industry problem by supplying much needed feedstock with the beet while replacing other dwindling imports into the Port has been given full endorsement by the Londonderry Port.”

“In terms of the short term benefits the construction of phase 1 will release immediate funding from a £125m investment package for NI Biogas projects and create at least 50 new jobs.”

Despite the potential benefits a number of Strathfoyle residents have objected to the plans.

But a spokesman for Ecoventi told the Sentinel local residents have nothing to fear from the proposed development.

“This project has been earmarked for what is an industrial zone. As a responsible company, which cares passionately for the environment we have been working closely with the various statutory authorities and will continue to do so over the coming weeks and months to ensure we alleviate any concerns that may arise, incuding those of a health and safety or environmental nature.

“We are open and transparent company and are happy to meet with any stakeholder who may wish to discuss the application.”