CONSTRUCTION work is due to start in the middle of this year on a facility near Mitchelstown that will inject renewable gas, produced locally from food and farm-animal waste, into the national network.
An Bord Pleanála recently upheld a ruling last May by Cork County Council planners to grant Gas Networks Ireland permission for the plant at Corracunna/Garryleagh near Mitchelstown.
It makes provision for the demolition of agricultural structures on the 1.8-hectare site and the construction of a Central Gas Injection (CGI) facility and associated works. Permission is valid for a 10-year period.
The site has been selected by Gas Networks Ireland as the key location for their innovative GRAZE (Green Renewable Agricultural & Zero Emissions) gas project, which the company has said would be the latest step in "de-carbonising Ireland's gas network".
Mitchelstown is suited for this element of the project due to both the large number of cattle in the surrounding areas and its close proximity to Ireland's gas network.
An Taisce had objected to the development on a number of grounds, including that the applicant had failed to consider what they described as the "considerable environmental impacts" of biomethane production.
The appeal also claimed that the Environmental Report submitted with the application did not "evaluate the direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts of the feed source, digestion process, transport, outputs and fugitive emissions" associated with the proposed plant.
However, in their order, the appeals board considered that, subject to conditions, the development would be in accordance with EU, national, regional and local policy.
The board further ruled the development would be acceptable in terms of traffic safety, would not have an unacceptable impact on the amenities of the area and would, therefore "be in accordance with the proper planning and sustainable development of the area".
The list of conditions imposed, which can be viewed at www.pleanala.ie, dealt with issues under various headings including public health and safety, the protection of local ecology and environmental protection.
The Mitchelstown facility, which will cost in the region of €28million to build, will be the second facility of its kind in the country and will also involve the placement of a series of more than 20 agri-anaerobic digestion biomethane units within a 60km radius of the proposed central-injection facility.
These will convert the farm and food waste into renewable gas that will be collected by a fleet of purpose-built trailers and fed into the network through the Central Gas Injection facility.
Once operational, the Mitchelstown facility will inject enough renewable gas to supply green energy to approximately 64,000 homes.
It is estimated that, at maximum capacity, the Mitchelstown operation alone will reduce Ireland's annual harmful CO2 emissions by up to 170,000 tonnes per annum, 27,000 tonnes of which will be made up from agricultural emissions.