Gas pipeline will be finished ahead of schedule
Natural gas will be connected in Wexford next month, weeks ahead of schedule.
Fran McFadden, National Large Connections Manager with Gas Networks Ireland, said that natural gas will be available in Wexford next month but the focus primarily at the start will be on commercial and business customers rather than domestic customers.
He said that he had been working on bringing gas to Wexford since 2009 and outlined the benefits of natural gas to an area saying that it was a great way to attract new businesses.
Mr McFadden said that the price of gas had dropped by over 40 per cent in the past number of years.
The €16.5 million project has been backed by Glanbia, Coca Cola and Celtic Linen, all of whom have signed up for at least seven years with the energy company and also paid over substantial bonds to ensure their commitment to the project.
However Mr McFadden said that it was only these three companies who would pay over bonds and any new businesses interested in connecting to the gas network would only be liable for connection fees, which he said are heavily discounted.
Work began on the pipeline in July 2015 and the plan was to have it operational by May or June of this year. However Mr McFadden said that the main feeder line will be completed by the end of April.
He said that Gas Networks Ireland and Irish Water are all part of Ervia and he said that the two companies are working together to ensure minimal disruption when it comes to road works. He said they have identified 16km of overlaying pipe connections and will either dig dual trenches or do the work on those overlapping areas in tandem with each other.
Mr McFadden said that there is 9km of the gas pipe network to be laid this year while 1km of water mains will be replaced. The first phase, he said, was to bring gas to the Newtown road and the industrial parks. In 2017 the second phase 7km of the gas network and 12km of the water mains network will be replaced which should bring gas to Ferrybank.
'Our focus at the moment', he said, 'is for industrial and commercial customers.'
However he said that if gas pipes were outside a housing estate it could be piped into the estate, providing that 20 per cent of the homes within the estate signed up for connection. 'There is an appetite for natural gas'.
Mayor Ger Carthy said it was important that any roads which were dug up would be replaced to the same standard pointing out that some of the roads around Taghmon leave little to be desired. However Mr McFadden assured him that surface works had yet to be carried out in Taghmon to put the roads right.
'It needs to be of a high quality', warned the Mayor. 'We are not in a position to repair the roads.'
Cllr George Lawlor said that the arrival of natural gas to the town would protect and attract jobs and wondered about connection costs.
Mr McFadden said that the three main businesses, Coca Cola, Celtic Linen and Glanbia had signed bonds but said there 'are no more bonds ffrom here on. Those anchor businesses had a bond to keep the project going. For small to medium businesses there is a fixed price which is between €1,500 and €2,000 which is about 30 per cent of the actual cost of connection. We absorb 70 per cent of the costs.
'For domestic customers there is a standard €250 charge as long as they are within 15m of the network. For other businesses they will meet with a connection representative who will assess the demands of the business and give a cost based on that. Again we generally give a 70 per cent discount on the price of connection.'
'Initially we had wanted to bring gas to New Ross as well but we had to remove it from the plan to mark it work. But if there is growth we may get extra money which we can use to expand.'
Mr McFadden said that the three anchor businesses were the only businesses subject to a long standing contract which he said was for seven years.
'They make up 70 per cent of the revenue because they are high energy demand businesses. There are a further 750 potential businesses in Wexford that we see as targets. We assume we will get a 50 per cent take-up rate on the larger businesses such as hotels and the hospital and 25 per cent of the rest.
'We do have to do a lot of upfront selling but we are confidence that if we exceed our targets we can expand the network (in Wexford).'
He went on to say that the Great Island facility was the reason that gas was now available in Wexford but said that while New Ross had been dropped from the initial plan he hoped to put it back on the agenda.
He indicated that a number of large users in the town were willing to commit to the project and he would know within two to four weeks if the project was viable.