Ethanol refining study urged

AS fuel prices continue to rocket, it was suggested yesterday that the possibility of producing ethanol from beet at the country’s last remaining sugar processing factory in Mallow, Co Cork, should be explored.

Mallow Mayor and Cork county councillor Sean Sherlock called for a viability study on the potential of producing bio-fuel from the crop at the plant.

He said it is vitally important to secure the ongoing survival of beet processing in Ireland in the context of challenges facing the Irish Sugar company, part of the Greencore Group, with the imminent overhaul of the EU sugar regime.

There is a ready made market for ethanol. It has enormous potential as a fuel alternative in the EU transport market.

Mayor Sherlock said ethanol production in Mallow would further enhance the prospects of the plant and ensure a viable return for beet growers in County Cork and throughout Munster.

“We must look to our obligations under the Kyoto protocol.

“Ireland is currently in breach of this agreement and continuing high emissions will result in a heavy penalties accruing to this country and to Irish taxpayers.”

He said the EU biofuel directive sets targets of 2% of all transport fuels needs by 2005 and 5.75% by 2010. The Irish Government must provide incentives to enhance viability studies and allow exemptions to factories that are equipped to meet this need.

“Oil is an unstable commodity and alternatives must be examined. Mallow could become a vital centre of production,” he said.

Mayor Sherlock called for a local forum involving beet growers, workers, Greencore and the Mallow Development Partnership to examine this possibility.

With an increasing focus on the demand for alternative fuels, it was recalled yesterday that Greencore actually commissioned a study six years ago on the feasibility of producing ethanol in Mallow from surplus sugar beet. It presented a copy of the study to the Department of Agriculture and Food.

The company stressed at the time that the proposal was very preliminary and no decision had been made as to whether it would proceed with it.

Meanwhile, a campaign to develop a bio-fuel refinery at Carlow sugar factory, which Irish Sugar closed last month, is to be launched by the Green Party at a conference in the town next Wednesday.

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