Economic growth sees energy usage increase

In a 2015 report conducted by Grant Thornton, the Irish residential solid fuel sales market per annum was estimated to be 410,000 tonnes for coal products, 203,000 tonnes for peat briquettes and 700,000 tonnes for sod peat.

Total demand for solid fuel is no longer on the rise. However, because of its impact on the atmosphere and Ireland’s taxation policies, prices are rising. The increase in prices does not translate to Northern Ireland where, with a lower VAT rate and no carbon tax, solid fuel is considerably cheaper, thus creating an incentive for cross-border fuel smuggling, a continuing threat to Irish fuel merchants.

According to the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER), the Irish national average gas consumption is 13,800kWh per annum (based on the average use in a three-bedroom house). This equates to an average annual spend of €964 per household. The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) report on energy in Ireland, 2015, revealed that residential energy use increased by 5.2% in 2015 relative to 2014. When corrected for weather effects – 2015 was a colder year than 2014 – the increase in energy use was 3.5%. Also in 2015, the average household emitted 5.5 tonnes of CO2 of which 61% came from direct fuel use in the home and the remainder from electricity use.

With strong economic growth in 2015, overall energy use increased by almost 5% and related emissions by almost 6%, the first time energy use grew to any great extent since 2010. While this does read positively for the market, it proves the challenge Ireland continues to face in reducing and decarbonising our energy use.

Innovation

For over 80 years, Bord na Móna, the largest supplier of solid fuel in Ireland, has led the way in designing an innovative and convenient range of solid fuel solutions for Irish consumers. This season the company is launching newly designed and rebranded packaging across its smokeless coal briquette range. The new design is intended to aid and help the consumer at point of purchase in selecting the right coal briquette product to suit their particular needs. Consumers can select from the new Fireheat Coal Briquette Smokeless range, if they are looking to enjoy an intensely hot coal fire that will last long into the night, or from the Firequick Smokeless range, if they are looking for a quick lighting and shorter burn time product. The Fireheat Stove Coal Briquette is specially designed for maximum heat efficiency in multi-fuel stoves. The new design features consumer-led benefit icons to demystify and educate on smokeless coal.

Bord na Móna has introduced new packaging for its smokeless coal briquette range.

Also launching this season is Peat Nuggets in a 20kg convenience size bag. According to a company spokesperson, this is a smaller peat briquette with all the great benefits of the original, iconic peat briquettes, with consistent quality and performance. “The Peat Nuggets are perfect for a fast-lighting, warm fire, with bright golden flame and a distinctive Irish peat smell. At Bord na Móna fuelling a sustainable future is the heartbeat of the business and the company continues to offer more choice for consumers in the future.”

Never out of style

Retail customers are always seeking cost-effective solutions to control their home heating bills and Flogas Superser heaters are a recognisable and proven bestseller. “Flogas Superser heaters are the perfect solution for cost-conscious customers. They are extremely useful as an instant, economic and portable way to ‘spot-heat’ a room quickly, as many customers find it far cheaper than turning on the central heating for an hour or two,” according to Eoin O’Flynn of Flogas Ireland, the exclusive distributor for Superser in Ireland and the UK.

“Flogas supplies two very contemporary-looking and stylish mobile heaters, the Superser Radiant and Superser Catalytic. In particular, the Superser Catalytic burns without a flame and has lower touch temperatures, making them safer, and it’s fitted with easy glide castors, which allows for trouble-free moving from room to room.

“Portable and stylish yet extremely functional, the Flogas Gaslight cylinders have been a great success since their launch and are getting an excellent response from customers because of all the benefits they offer.”

Model Karena Graham shows off the lightness of the new Flogas Gaslight cylinder, available in 5kg and 10kg sizes.

Not only are the Flogas Gaslight cylinders about half the weight of the traditional steel cylinders, the semi-translucent exterior allows customers to see exactly how much gas they have left. Eoin said that the Flogas Gaslight cylinders are as safe as steel cylinders and won’t leave rust marks on patios or decks. He added that they fit all leading brands of liquified petroleum gas (LPG) appliances, making them suitable for caravans, camper vans, motor homes, barbeques and patio heaters. The cylinders are available in 5kg and 10kg sizes in selected outlets nationwide.

New smokeless ovoid facility

Stafford Fuels’ new ovoid plant is now fully operational.

Stafford Fuels, a leading supplier of environmentally-friendly domestic fuels, has announced that its new ovoid manufacturing plant is now fully operational and the company is looking forward to the new heating season.

The new plant is primarily for the production of smokeless fuel and geared to meet the future demand expected from Government plans to ban bituminous coal across the country. Currently the ban on bituminous coal covers all urban areas with population over 15,000 people and covers over 50% of the population, according to a Stafford Fuels spokesperson.

Stafford Fuels is launching a new 130 gram ‘pillow’ ovoid suitable for both open fires and closed appliances named Superglow Xtra. “This new ovoid compares favourably against similar products currently on the market both for heat output and longevity of the burn as per monitored fire tests carried out by Stafford Fuels. This high-end smokeless fuel emits significantly lower emissions than bituminous coal products – especially PM10 and PM2.5, which are closely linked to air quality. Superglow Xtra” will be available in 40kg, 20kg and 10kg bags”, the spokesperson said.

“As part of our new expansion we have carried out extensive research and development, which developed Superglow Xtra. In this process we also developed a new upgraded stove and closed appliance fuel – a new 35 gram to 40 gram ovoid – which will be marketed under our existing successful Stove Fuel brand – Xtraheat Smokeless Stove Fuel. This fuel is designed specifically for multi-fuel stoves and closed appliances. It will be available in 40kg and 20kg bags.

“The project represents, in total, a €3 million investment and will secure 35 existing jobs and create six additional new roles. The new plant will allow Stafford Fuels to continually innovate in the solid fuel area and keep Stafford Fuels at the forefront of the Irish solid fuel trade. This includes the development of a part biomass ovoid (biomass 30%+) which we are currently progressing.”

Using sustainable biomass to replace solid fuels is a key part of the future for solid fuels and will contribute to reducing the national output of greenhouse gases, according to Stafford Fuels. Additionally, the biomass portion of the ovoid will be exempt from carbon tax.

While the solid fuel trade in general, and the coal trade in particular, have had three to four very difficult years the one area that has performed better is the convenience market, 20kg and 10kg bags. This is partly due to people moving from being ‘every day’ users of solid fuel to being more occasional users. We expect this trend to continue. As well as being a margin earner for forecourts and shops, solid fuel is also a product that can generate footfall. Once the weather gets cold solid fuel is a necessity. People will then look to their local convenience outlet for supply.

“To help service the increasing demand for 10kg and 20kg product we have upgraded our small bag packing line with a new robot palletiser to service this increasing market.

“This significant investment confirms our strategic view of a sustainable future for high-quality solid fuels and our commitment to product innovation which can offer customers even more choice. With the growth in demand for smokeless products, this new investment will give Stafford a leadership role and align us with the significant changes facing the sector into the future.” Stafford Fuels Ltd is part of the Stafford Group. The group also comprises Lifestyle Sports and Campus Oil and has a total employment of around 850 people.