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Opposition to the Gort Biogas plant in evidence on the old Galway road outside Gort. Photograph by John Kelly

Gort biogas facility may still be on the cards

The possibility of a large scale biogas facility being built in Gort has resurfaced, according to the Gort Biogas Concerns Group.
According to the local group, the proposed developers of the facility, Sustainable Bioenergy Limited, are considering requesting a remittal of a decision made by the High Court earlier this year.
That decision saw an Bord Pleanála concede to a legal case brought by the Gort Biogas Concerns against planning permission being granted for the facility.
If the remittal is granted, it will see an Bord Pleanála appoint another inspector to reassess plans for the facility. The Gort Biogas Concerns Group have raised concerns over the possibility of an explosion at the proposed facility, should it be struck by lightning.
The group sites a case from October of last year when lightning struck a biogas plant in Oxfordshire in England, which resulted in an explosion and fire at the site.
The strike in England caused three of the four biogas storage tanks to explode and required a massive response from the emergency services to bring the blaze under control.
“If this is the type of explosion that three tanks can produce, then what would be the potential for a plant with several times the volume? This is the size of the proposed Gort biogas plant,” said a spokesperson from the Gort Biogas Concerns Group earlier this week.
“With the closest home just 100 metres away, and the nearest housing estate just 200 metres away, a blast at a plant of this magnitude would be catastrophic.
“How many fire engines and firefighters would be needed to bring something like this under control?”
The group also claim that not enough weight was given to the possibility of an explosion during the initial planning process for the proposed development.
The local group claims that the environmental impact assessment carried out for the facility did not consider the raw biogas, that would be present in the 12 tanks, as a potentially explosive substance.
“This was of course a huge concern for our community, and we brought this to the attention of An Bord Pleanála as part of our submission report,” said a spokesperson from the Biogas Concerns Group.
“The response from the an Bord Pleanála inspector was unbelievable. He excused the total omission of the biogas as a hazardous substance by the developer.
“Then, correctly considering the biogas as hazardous substance, the inspector did his own calculations and concluded, in agreement with the environmental report.
“The Gort Biogas Concerns Group conducted its own analysis of and found that the inspectors’ assumptions and calculations were not consistent with the regulations and that the Gort plant was well within the threshold.”
Permission for the development of this biogas facility was initially been refused by Galway County Council. A decision by An Bord Pleanála to reverse ruling sparked outrage in the local community in later 2022 and early 2023.
In 2023, the Gort Biogas Concerns Group raised more than €100,000 from local donations to fund the judicial review of the decision.
Ciaran O’Donnell of GBCG said the group were in favour of biogas, but said that it needed to be at the correct scale, in the correct location and built to benefit the local community.

About Andrew Hamilton

Andrew Hamilton is a journalist, writer and podcaster based in the west of Ireland.

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