Up to eight jobs will be created at Stafford Fuels Ltd in New Ross as production of smokeless coal ramps up ahead of a smoky coal ban due to come into effect next year.
tafford’s Managing Director Andy Maher said the company invested €3m in 2016 in time for when a smoky coal ban was due to be introduced.
Welcoming the announcement that ban is due to come into effect by next autumn, Mr Maher said it’s not before time.
“This was fist promised in 2013 to be implemented in 2016; that’s how long this is going on. It’s been very hard to plan the business in this uncertainty but now we can plan.”
Over Covid the amount of bituminous, smoky coal being burned has lessened.
He said Stafford’s remained open throughout the pandemic, with non production staff working from home.
“It’s been business as usual; with a little bit of an uptick from people working so much from home. This is something that needed to happen.”
Having built a smokeless fuel manufacturing plant at Raheen, New Ross, Stafford Fuels Ltd will be hiring for the more labour intensive process of cutting more smokeless coal at the plant.
“The plant came on line in 2017. For an investment like that it should be at 90 per cent capacity but it’s only doing 35 per cent of that. It has been profitable but not running at our planned rates. Over recent years 55 to 60 per cent of the market has been bituminous. We are now in a position where we will be bringing our plant up to full production.”
There will be more shifts for staff as work ramps up at the plant, which supplies nationwide.
Since Covid more people have become health conscious and have, in turn, changed to smokeless. “It’s 65/35 now smokeless. We had targeted our customers and exhorting them to change for environmental reasons so for the first time we were selling more smokeless than bituminous.
The smokeless has to go through a manufacturing process. As we start to replace bituminous with smokeless it will require longer hours and more shifts creating between five and eight jobs.”
Mr Maher welcomed the Green party’s influence in the ban and said the recent smoky coal bans in Tramore and Enniscorthy have already led to an uptick in business.