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Gildernew visits successful Fermanagh Timber processor

16 January, 2008


Sinn Féin Agriculture Minister Michelle Gildernew MP MLA today visited Balcas Timber Ltd near Enniskillen.

During the visit she was introduced to the Balcas senior management team and toured their log processing facility, combined heat and power plant and wood pellet production plant.

Responding to the warm welcome given by the Balcas management team the Minister said:

"What I have seen today is very impressive. The integrated use of forest products by Balcas is the result of closer and innovative partnerships between Government and industry. This underpins what we in DARD are doing to improve the economics of the Forestry Sector and Sustainable Rural Development. Balcas are clearly at the forefront of generating renewable energy using wood fibre from forests as a fuel to produce electricity for industrial consumption and wood pellets for domestic use.

"I would also like to take this opportunity to remind farmers and landowners of the long term Forest Policy aim to double the local forest area to 150,000ha by 2050, and the important role that private landowners have in achieving this objective. Today's visit is a clear demonstration of how partnership has created vitality and confidence within the wood processing and forest product sector resulting in renewable energy making such a positive contribution to the rural economy."

NOTES TO EDITORS:

  1. Balcas was established in Enniskillen in 1962 and is the largest sawmill in Ireland. Current turnover is over £80million. The company is involved in three distinct activities; sawmilling, MDF (Medium Density Fibre) mouldings and production of wood pellets. It employs a total of 536 people at its manufacturing sites.
  2. Balcas purchase 230,000 tonnes of timber annually through Long Term Contracts (4-5 years) from Forest Service. This is approximately 60% of timber production available from the Departments Forests. The balance of their raw material is purchased mainly from Coillte, in the South of Ireland while a small proportion is bought from private woodland owners including farmers and a proportion of raw material is sourced from Scotland.
  3. Balcas generates 2.7MW of electricity and 10MW of heat for its own use. It also produces wood pellets that generate a further 30MW of heat when used by consumers off-site. The combination of this equates to 42MW of renewable energy being generated using wood fibre from forests. The electricity and heat produced supplies almost all of Balcas' requirements at the Enniskillen site - saving nearly £0.5million in energy costs - with the surplus being supplied to the National Grid. The processing of co-products on-site results in almost 10,000 less truck journeys per year on the roads in the North of Ireland. The environmentally-friendly wood pellets generate enough heat to keep 10,000 homes warm throughout the year.
  4. The Forestry Strategy, "NI Forestry: A Strategy for Sustainability and Growth" was published in March 2006. The Strategy restated forestry policy as the sustainable management of forests, and a steady expansion of forest area to increase the diverse benefits forests provide. One of the main aims of the strategy is the long term objective of doubling the area of forest cover in the North of Ireland, from the current 75,000 Hectares to 150,000 Hectares, by 2050 by expanding the forest area owned by farmers and landowners.

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