Address Balcas ltd, unit16, cromarty firth industrial park, Invergordon IV18 0LE, Scotland, UK
Northern Irish firm, Balcas, opened a wood pellet and energy production plant in invergordon in october 2009. Able to produce 100,000 tonnes per year, the site is the largest wood pellet manufacturing plant in the uk and ireland. The development is one of balcas’ two pellet production plants and saw over £30 million of investment from the company as well as a £5.5 million grant from highlands and islands enterprise. The company employs 45members of staff at the site and has created a further 200 indirect jobs in the area.
Chris connorton, general manager of the site, explains why the company chose invergordon: “the site is close to several lodgepole pine forests, a type of wood that is perfect for us. By making pellets from lodgepole pine, we’ve created a use for a material which didn’t have a market before. Invergordon also has a pier which we use to export some of our pellets to denmark and holland.”
With a turn over of over £80 million per year, balcas is one of britain and ireland’s leading suppliers of wood products. It directly employs around 500 members of staff across europe and offers a range of items, including construction timber and fencing material.
Balcas’ wood pellets are known as brites. Made from locally sourced wood, the small pellets cost 37 percent less than oil and are a more environmentally friendly way to heat homes or commercial properties. The pellets produced at the invergordon site replace 50 millionlitres of oil and 131,000 tonnes of co2 every year. Although pellet stoves have been used in germany and sweden for around 20 years, this type of heating is fairly new to the uk. An increased awareness of environmental issues and the rising cost of fossil fuels has triggered demand for pellet systems here. The government’s immanent renewable heat incentive scheme may further develop the UK market by reducing the cost of system installations.
As well as manufacturing an environmentally friendly product, the balcas facility contributes to the green effort itself. The plant produces all the energy it needs on site. Chris describes the process: “we bring logs in, chip them and then separate the chippings.about 55 percent of the chippings are used to make pellets and the rest are burnt to produce steam which generates electricity for the site. We generate 206 megawatt hours a day, the equivalent of saving 111.7 tonnes of co2 , and send the electricity we don’t use to the national grid.”
The balcas plant has now been operational for over a year. The initial few months presented some problems, but chris and his team worked hard to resolve them. “we had some technical issues at first, but we modified the plant and over came them,” chris reveals. “the winter also gave us problems as it was difficult to get wood out of forests, but we are looking at increasing our stock pile. We have also had the odd complaint about noise and, while we are with in our planning limits, we want to be good neighbours so we are working with a consultancy to investigate how to reduce this.”
Now the plant is running smoothly, chris has high hopes for the future: “we’d like to continue to develop the uk market for our pellets and increase our production capacity at the site,” he explains. “we are also keen to work with our suppliers, contractors and stakeholders to forge long-term, sustainable relationships here in scotland.”
A forward looking company which produces an environmentally friendly product in a sustainable way, balcas is a welcome addition to the highland business community. With over 40 employees house data state-of-the-art facility, the company has already contributed much to the local economy.if the desire for cost effective and green heating continues to increase, chris and his team should have little trouble in fulfilling their plans to expand this invergordon site.As you visit ‘Balcas ltd’, you may find interest in following listings . . .