Plans for a gas ring main could lead to the decarbonisation of Sligo industries

Sligo Chamber’s Industry Group has been working with a range of partners to ensure that Sligo and the wider region have access to a clean, sustainable energy supply as soon as possible.

The Industry Group, which is chaired by David Kiely, a partner and director with Jennings O’Donovan Consulting Engineers, was set up by the Chamber in 2013 to lobby for investment and infrastructure for Sligo, and it sees access to renewable energy as essential to the future prosperity of the county.

For some time, the Industry Group, along with its partners in Sligo Sustainable Energy Community, has been investigating the possibilities of creating a gas ring main for Sligo to move away from the current situation where industries around Ballytivnan and Finisklin have to accept the risk of having gas tanks on their premises.

“The concept is that there would be a ring main that would start around Ballytivnan and serve the hospital, the ATU and Abbvie and then come across to Finisklin, then to Oakfield, then back via Cleveragh to Ballytivnan, so you would have a circuit,” David says.

“When these companies are audited by their global body, these existing gas tanks are noted because of potential explosive risk. If there is then an investment decision to be taken about extending operations in a factory in Sligo or in Poland, they might give it to the one in Poland because it is connected to a gas mains system rather than having a tank on its premises. In addition, gas is seen as a transitionary fuel in helping to get to net carbon by 2050 and most big industries are looking to achieve that.”

Ultimately, however, the aim would be for a gas mains in Sligo to transition to clean fuel through the use of gas generated by anaerobic digesters and the development of hydrogen plants – both of which the Industry Group has been working towards along with Sligo Chamber’s partners in the Sligo Energy Community, including ATU Sligo, Abbvie, Sligo County Council, IDA, Abbott and Sligo University Hospital (HSE).

Over the years, various studies have been done about connecting Sligo to Corrib Gas in Ballina, but costs were a deterrent. So, Sligo Sustainable Energy Community came up with the idea of a grid for Sligo. A submission for funding to government proved unsuccessful, but Gas Networks Ireland did fund a preliminary study, which was conducted by Fingleton White.

“They concluded that it would be a viable project and came up with some indicative costings,” David says. “What’s envisaged is that initially compressed natural gas would be transported from the gas network, but in time you would replace some of that with gas that is generated locally by an anaerobic digester – from renewable sources such as agricultural slurries or other streams that might be currently thought of as waste streams.”

Recently, the project (through Sligo Leitrim Energy Agency) secured funding from Enterprise Ireland to appoint a project manager for a six month period to push the whole project along.

Separately, an ongoing study, conducted by Rowan Engineering (with funding from Gas Networks Ireland), is looking at the possibilities of putting an anaerobic digestor in the general environs of Sligo. It will examine what feed stocks are available, what size plant it needs to be, and whether it can in whole or in part contribute to the proposed gas network project.

“Sligo Chamber member companies that may have suitable waste – such as sludges, large amounts of kitchen waste or by-products from breweries – should contact the Chamber in the first instance, and we will put them in touch with Rowan,” David says.

“It is important to the decarbonisation of Sligo to have that ring main in place. Climate action is key for attracting industry. The greener we are, the more favourable type of industry we could get. Ultimately, the intention would be to transition the ring main to hydrogen, but this is an important first step.”

Next week, we will look at the possible role of hydrogen in Sligo: Future ENERGY.