Investing in Biomethane Can Deliver Huge Benefits for Ireland’s Agri Sector, Minister Ryan Tells Conference

Biomethane production can significantly reduce carbon emissions from agriculture and create a new rural industry.

Investing in biomethane production will deliver very significant climate benefits for the Irish farming and agri-business sector, and create a new income stream for farmers, an agricultural energy conference has heard.

In his ministerial address at the ‘Energy in Agriculture; Energy and Farm Business Show’ which was held at Gurteen College in Roscrea, Co Tipperary today, Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, Eamon Ryan TD, said:

“By speeding up the roll-out of renewable gases like biomethane, Ireland can diversify our gas supplies and reduce our reliance on imported fossil fuels, as well as contributing to our broader climate goals – of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 51% by 2030 and reaching net zero emissions by 2050. Critically, it provides a way for Irish farmers to diversify and strengthen their income streams. Agriculturally produced sustainable carbon-neutral biomethane also exemplifies the principles of the circular economy. By recycling and re-using food and farm waste we can create cleaner energy – for electricity, heat and transport.”

Gas Networks Ireland’s Biomethane Programme Manager, Padraig Fleming also spoke at the show in Roscrea today where he outlined the significant benefits of expanding the production of biomethane, which is a renewable gas.

“Irish agriculture can reap really significant benefits – both in terms of reducing its own emissions and also helping Ireland move to a cleaner energy future - by engaging in biomethane production,” Mr Fleming said.

Mr Fleming who was speaking as part of a panel discussion alongside representatives from Gurteen College, the Renewable Gas Forum of Ireland, and Green Gas Generation, cited the experience in Denmark as an example of how to successfully build a biomethane industry.

“Last year a quarter of the gas on Denmark’s network was biomethane, the majority of which was produced by local farmers and the Danish agri-business sector,” Mr Fleming said.

“Ireland’s Climate Action Plan has set a target of 1.6 TWh of natural gas – around 3% of Ireland’s gas usage – to be replaced by biomethane by 2030. Delivering on this target would not only benefit the Irish agri sector by creating a new industry but would also allow the sector remove approximately 320,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide from Ireland’s emissions per year.”

Structurally identical to natural gas, biomethane is a carbon neutral renewable gas that can be made from farm and food waste through a process known as anaerobic digestion. It is fully compatible with the national gas network and existing appliances, technologies and vehicles, and can seamlessly replace natural gas to reduce emissions in heating, industry, transport and power generation, while also supporting the decarbonisation of the agri-food sector.

“Ireland’s 14,617km national gas network is a ready-made solution to transport biomethane, as biomethane is a direct replacement for natural gas; and as the network delivers energy to over 710,000 homes and businesses across the country there is a ready-made market for it”, Mr Fleming said.

“Agriculturally produced biomethane can be delivered sustainably, and at scale, to help reduce on-farm emissions and support more sustainable food supply chains. It can also help decarbonise the energy system, diversify our indigenous energy supply, enhance our energy security, and generate significant employment opportunities in rural Ireland, creating additional income sources for farmers and local communities.

Agri led biomethane can be produced at scale without impinging on food or animal feed production while helping the agri sector decarbonise.”

Construction is expected to start on Ireland’s first large-scale biomethane injection facility next summer. The new facility, which will be in Mitchelstown, Co. Cork, will receive and inject biomethane from up to 20 local farm-based producers.

The facility is part of the €30 million Green Renewable Agricultural Zero Emissions (GRAZE) renewable gas project. Led by Gas Networks Ireland, the GRAZE project is supported by more than €8.4 million in funding from the Climate Action Fund, as part of the Government’s National Energy Security Framework.

“We strongly welcome the government’s €8.4m investment into the GRAZE project” Mr Fleming said.

“But to really get the biomethane industry off the ground it will need the same levels of support as other renewable energy industries.”

The new facility has the potential to supply gas to the equivalent of up to 64,000 homes with gas made by local farm-based producers.

The EU Green Deal has highlighted biomethane as a vital tool in decarbonising European agriculture and energy systems, and the European Commission has identified Ireland as having the highest potential for biomethane production per capita in Europe – due in part to Ireland’s large agricultural sector.