€40m investment from BioSpark to create 180 green jobs

15 May 2009

A clean-tech venture from BioSpark will pump €40m in a next-generation bio-processing research, innovation and manufacturing centre at Claremorris, Co Mayo, which will see the creation of 180 jobs for the West, with the potential for 300 jobs down the line.

BioSpark is the newly formed joint venture between Imperative Energy and Sustainable BioPolymers, and its €40m investment comes as welcome news for the West’s local and regional economy, with the realistic potential of growing 300 jobs within three years in Ireland’s burgeoning green industry.

The Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Mary Coughlan TD, will be attending a meeting of local representatives in Claremorris this evening to officially make the announcement.

The total Biospark development will cost €40m and will be constructed over the next two years, subject to planning approval.

The impact of the development will be the creation of 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; and a further potential 120 high-value jobs at the BioSpark Claremorris centre within three years of its completion.

The BioSpark development will be located at a 22-acre site close to the town of Claremorris.

It will feature a 20,000 tonne-per-annum bio-processing facility, which will use 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.

The BioSpark development will also have leading-edge laboratory facilities for bio-processing research and innovation.

The facility’s 60,000 tonne-per-annum wood-pellet production facility will be the largest and most advanced one of its kind on the island of Ireland.

In addition, its 20MWth/5MWe CHP plant will be fired on biomass and connected to the national grid via a sub-station in close proximity to the site.

The BioSpark development will also feature 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.

Biomass is used to produce industrial bulk and speciality bio-based compounds, which are currently 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.

Biomass is also used to generate large quantities of renewable heat and power.

The facility will be completely self-sufficient in terms of its energy use, but also in providing enough green energy to support district heating and cooling systems for the Claremorris area.

Professor Vincent O’Flaherty, director of the Energy Research Centre at NUI Galway, said 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,” he explained.

“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 multidisciplinary team looks forward to working with BioSpark to maximise its R&D potential.”

Making the announcement today, the Tánaiste 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 Tanaiste said that while bio-processing has been talked about for some time, this is the first “real manifestation of a commercial scale facility with such a strong focus on innovation and R&D”.

BioSpark has been formed to capitalise on Ireland’s competitive advantage in the biomass stakes.

The development at Claremorris is the first of a number of similar facilities that the promoters of the project – Imperative Energy and Sustainable Biopolymers – are planning to replicate across Ireland, the UK and North America.

By Carmel Doyle