A new wood-fuelled energy system being installed at the Aurivo dairy ingredients plant at Ballaghaderreen, Co Roscommon aims to cut carbon emissions in half through a dramatic reduction in usage of heavy fuel oil.

The €5m biomass plant, construction of which gets under way this week, will use 30,000 tonnes of woodchip per annum, sourced from forests in the west and north west. It will result in the annual displacement of five million litres of heavy fuel oil, according to Aurivo.

With a capacity of 15 tonnes of biomass, the plant is the first of its type in the west and Aurivo will become the first large-scale milk processor in the country to switch to biomass as a source of energy.

The Ballaghaderreen plant processes some 300 million litres of milk per annum into enriched milk powders, butter and dairy ingredients, which are exported through the Irish Dairy Board to more than 20 countries, including fast-growing markets in Africa.

The new plant, which will be operational in April 2014, will have an output of 15Mw of steam energy. Ultimately, it will be developed into a combined heat and power (CHP) plant and by 2016 Aurivo plans to be exporting energy into the national electricity grid.

Aurivo chief executive Aaron Forde said the new plant provides a long-term, sustainable energy solution for its dairy ingredients business, which is supplied by 1,000 dairy farmers in the west, north west and midlands.

“As well as cutting carbon emissions, it will also result in energy savings.  The initiative is an integral part of our commitment to Bord Bia’s ‘Origin Green’ sustainability charter.  As a major food exporter, sustainable systems must be at the core of all stages in the production and manufacturing chain,” said Forde.

The plant was designed and manufactured by Irish company, HDS Energy. Based in Kells, Co Meath, HDS has designed, manufactured and installed boiler systems for companies including Intel, Wyeth and Guinness Ireland.

The components, weighing more than 200 tonnes, were transported over two nights from Kells to Ballaghadereen in a garda-escorted convoy. Assembly gets under way this week when a 500-tonne crane arrives at the Aurivo plant in Ballaghaderreen.

Pictured at the Aurivo dairy ingredients plant in Ballaghaderreen this week where the installation of a wood-fuelled energy system got underway, from left; Alan Fox, HDS Energy, suppliers of the plant, Padraig Gibbons, chairman of Aurivo, Aaron Forde, Aurivo chief executive and Eoghan Sweeney, dairy manager