WORK began on the nation's first commercial biofuel depot yesterday . . . but motorists were warned not to expect any dip in the soaring prices at the fuel pump.
The warning came from Marine and Natural Resources Minister Noel Dempsey at the first day of construction at the biodiesel production plant in New Ross, Co Wexford, yesterday.
The €21m state-of-the-art plant will convert animal fats and recycled vegetable oils into bio road fuel which will be supplied to the Irish and EU markets.
The production facility is being established by Green Biofuels Ireland Ltd. It intends to capitalise on the growing demand for biofuel in Ireland and the EU by producing 34 million litres of biodiesel annually.
Construction of the facility began yesterday, with completion due in the middle of next year.
However, speaking after the launch, Mr Dempsey said the introduction of biofuels to consumers "won't make any difference price wise at the forecourt fuel pumps".
"We are spending money and investing in this in an effort to reduce emissions, reduce carbon dioxide and to follow Kyoto agreements," he said.
"For biofuels to be viable there is going to be an investment of more than €200m into the sector up to 2010."
Mr Dempsey said the Government had already committed itself to the introduction of a biofuels obligation in 2009, which will deliver targets of 5.75pc by 2010 and up to 10pc in 2020.
EU production of biodiesel is expected to reach 6.8bn litres by next year.
The market for biodiesel is growing rapidly, with demand exceeding supply.
Demand is driven by EU legislation and by a consumer desire to use cleaner, low-emission products.
Shareholders in the project will supply the majority of raw materials required, including recycled vegetable oil (RVO), animal fats and rapeseed oil. The Wexford Farmers Co-op will supply rapeseed oil through its 4,000 farmer shareholder base and contracts have already been put in place with farmers to sow rapeseed for exclusive supply to the new facility.
PJ D'arcy, chairman of Green Biofuels Ireland Ltd, said biodiesel was a clean-burning alternative to mineral diesel fuel which has established itself as the number one renewal fuel for use in diesel-burning road vehicles.
"All biodiesel being produced will meet EU quality standards for incorporation into road fuels and the product will be marketed as a 5pc blend through the existing fuel supply chain using the leading oil distributors.
Up to 40 new jobs will be created at the facility and in the supply services.