Renewable gas

Biomethane, a sustainable and carbon neutral renewable gas

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What is renewable gas (biomethane)?

Biomethane is a carbon-neutral renewable gas made from farm and food waste through a process known as anaerobic digestion.

Biogas is initially produced through the breakdown of organic material (feedstock) by micro-organisms in large oxygen-free tanks (anaerobic digesters) into biogas and digestate.  This process also occurs naturally in nature as organic wastes and residues decompose releasing methane into the atmosphere. To be injected into the gas network, this biogas must then be upgraded to biomethane and meet the quality standards as required by Gas Networks Ireland.

Biomethane, began flowing into the gas network in 2019 and is the first step to a cleaner energy future. It can reduce emissions across key sectors of the economy including heating, industry, transport and power generation, while also supporting the decarbonisation of the agri-food sector.

This renewable energy is structurally identical to natural gas and can be used in exactly the same way through the existing infrastructure, boilers and appliances, meaning homeowners and businesses will be able to transition to this sustainable energy source and play their part in progressing Ireland towards a cleaner energy future, without changing a thing.

Did you know?

  • Renewable gas first entered Ireland’s national gas network in 2019

  • Ireland has the highest potential to produce biomethane per capita in Europe

  • There are over 17,000 anaerobic digestion plants producing biomethane in Europe

Request for Information from biomethane producers

We have launched a Request for Information (RFI) process to obtain input from biomethane producers that will help us plan for Ireland’s national gas network, which is considered one of the safest and most modern renewables-ready gas networks in the world. The purpose of the RFI is twofold.

  • The identification of new and feasible biomethane production projects to supply biomethane into the Irish gas network. This information will be used to assess the future infrastructure requirements for biomethane integration into the gas network by comparing the current gas network infrastructure to the mapping of biomethane production potential from the RFI. A network study will also be undertaken and published by Gas Networks Ireland on the basis of the responses received to this RFI.
  • Gas network operators are key stakeholders in relation to the development of a biomethane industry and, most notably, planning of biomethane integration into the gas network. In view of this and given the need to rapidly scale up biomethane production in Ireland by 2030 to the 5.7 TWh production target, the findings from this RFI will provide Gas Networks Ireland with detailed information to build on on-going dialogue with Irish policymakers to plan a gas network fit for future needs.
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Benefits of renewable gas

Greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture represent over 35% of Ireland’s emissions. Biomethane can help Ireland reduce agricultural emissions while decarbonising the energy system.

As well as reducing on-farm emissions and supporting more sustainable supply chains, an indigenous biomethane industry would also provide significant opportunities for local communities from the sale of biomethane, feedstock used to produce the renewable gas, and a bio-fertiliser that is a by-product of the process, and facilitate sustainable circular economies, with businesses powering their operations via renewable gas made from their own waste.

An indigenous biomethane industry is crucial for enhancing the security and diversity of Ireland’s energy supply, reducing our reliance on importing energy.

The European Commission identified Ireland as having the highest potential for renewable gas biomethane production per capita in Europe.

Connecting biomethane producers

Gas Networks Ireland has a pivotal role to play in supporting Ireland’s transition to a net zero energy system. One of our key roles is to provide connections onto the network for biomethane producers. We facilitate the injection of the renewable gas biomethane into the gas network via two methods. A direct connection where a pipeline extension will be constructed to connect a biomethane plant to the network. Where a pipeline is not viable, the second option is to transport the biomethane by truck to a central grid injection facility, where it will then be injected into the gas network. 

Please download our biomethane connections guide to learn more about the steps producers must take to connect and inject biomethane into the gas network.

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Renewable gas in Ireland today

By gradually replacing natural gas with renewable gases, such as biomethane and hydrogen, Gas Networks Ireland aims to deliver a net-zero carbon gas network by 2050. Learn more about some of the key developments in the industry to date that will support reduce emissions across a number of key sectors, including those that are traditionally difficult to decarbonise, including heating, agriculture, industry, transport and power generation.

Gas Networks Ireland successfully injected locally produced biomethane into the gas network for the first time at Ireland’s first purpose-built injection facility in Cush Co. Kildare. The dedicated renewable gas entry point in Cush commenced commercial flows in May 2020 and joined Corrib as the only indigenous gas source on Ireland’s network following the closure of the Kinsale Head gas field. Once flowing at maximum capacity, Cush will have the capability to supply renewable gas to approximately 11,000 homes.

Gas Networks Ireland is expected to begin construction of Ireland’s first large-scale renewable gas injection facility in Mitchelstown, Co. Cork next summer as part of the €30 million Green Renewable Agricultural Zero Emissions (GRAZE) renewable gas project.

The GRAZE project is led by Gas Networks Ireland and is supported by more than €8.4m in funding from the climate action fund, as part of the Government’s national energy security framework. The new facility will receive and inject carbon neutral renewable biomethane made from farm and food waste through a process call anaerobic digestion – from up to 20 local farm-based producers.

With planning approved and technical design underway, this CGI facility will take biomethane produced from facilities off-network and within a radius of up to 100 km. When operating at full capacity Mitchelstown will have the potential to inject enough renewable gas into the gas network to heat up to 64,000 homes.

A carbon free renewable gas that can be made from excess renewable electricity and stored until needed, hydrogen is vital to both Ireland’s and the EU’s ambition for a net-zero energy system by 2050.

Ireland’s gas network is considered one of the safest and most modern in the world. To ensure it is capable of safely transporting and storing hydrogen, Gas Networks Ireland has opened the Network Innovation Centre at its Citywest Campus at Brownsbarn, Co. Dublin, where pipelines, meters and appliances are being tested for use with a variety of gases and hydrogen blends. Currently it is understood that blends of up to 20% hydrogen are compatible with existing gas infrastructure. A rigorous testing programme will take place to confirm the level of hydrogen that Ireland’s gas network can facilitate.

Glossary

Anaerobic digestion is the breakdown of organic material (feedstock) by micro-organisms in large oxygen-free tanks (anaerobic digesters) into biogas and digestate.  This process also occurs naturally in nature as organic wastes and residues decompose releasing methane into the atmosphere. 

The anaerobic digestion process allows for the capture of biogas, which can be used to generate onsite electricity. Alternatively, it can be upgraded to biomethane and injected into the gas network.

Biomethane is a carbon-neutral renewable gas. Biogas is initially produced from farm and food waste through a process known as anaerobic digestion where the greenhouse gases created by agricultural and food waste emissions are captured and converted into energy. To be injected into the gas network, this biogas can must be upgraded to biomethane and meet the quality standards as required by Gas Networks Ireland.

The material that is used in anaerobic digestion is called feedstock. This can include animal slurries and crop residues. What goes into a digester determines what comes out, so careful choice of feedstocks is essential.  Securing a reliable feedstock supply is fundamental to profitable anaerobic digestion.

Digestate is the material remaining after the anaerobic digestion of feedstock.  Digestate can be applied as a bio-fertiliser to grass and tillage lands as a sustainable alternative to chemical fertiliser application,  offsetting carbon emissions from conventional fertilisers.

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For more details on renewable gas and any initial enquiries, please get in touch.

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