Gas Networks Ireland welcomes publication of National Biomethane Strategy and actions to progress a ramp-up in production of the renewable gas

  • Capital grants for investment in Anaerobic Digestion plants announced 
  • Govt plans to incentivise & support development of 150-200 plants nationwide
  • New regulatory obligations in train for energy providers to purchase renewable gas

The publication of the Government’s National Biomethane Strategy is a boost to the decarbonisation of the gas network, and is welcome news for current and prospective producers, according to Gas Networks Ireland.

The new strategy details several actions designed to incentivise more investment in the biomethane industry, which is still in its early stages in Ireland compared to other EU countries such as France, the Netherlands and Denmark. There are approximately 1,300 biomethane plants across the EU while almost 40% of Danish gas consumption is biomethane – which is a carbon-neutral renewable gas made from farm and food waste through a process known as anaerobic digestion. As outlined in the latest Climate Action Plan, the Government wants biomethane to provide 10 per cent of the country’s gas needs by 2030.

The new measures include capital grants for businesses to help pay for investments in anaerobic digestion facilities, while the government will also create a market for biomethane by introducing regulatory obligations on energy providers to buy the renewable gas. This measure will require energy suppliers to purchase and use a percentage of biofuels annually in a phased approach, from 2 per cent initially, rising to 10 per cent by 2030. 

The new strategy will also provide a roadmap on how the state intends to incentivise and support the development of 150-200 AD plants through grant aid. The Climate Action Plan 2024 stipulates a target of reaching 5.7 TWh of biogas energy per annum by 2030, to drive down carbon emissions. 

Renewable biomethane gas is fully compatible with the existing national gas network and can be transported through existing pipelines without restrictions in volumes or required pipeline alterations. Structurally identical to natural gas, biomethane seamlessly replaces natural gas to reduce emissions in heating, industry, transport and power generation. A thriving indigenous biomethane industry would also play an important role in enhancing the country’s security of energy supply by reducing its reliance on imported energy. 

Cathal Marley, CEO at Gas Networks Ireland said the publication of a national biomethane strategy is an important milestone, as it gives producers and investors guidance on future commitments and targets for the industry.

“Last year we published the Biomethane Energy Report, a comprehensive report detailing the key findings from a national Request for Information (RFI) process targeting current and prospective biomethane producers. It had a sizeable response with 176 expressions of interest from prospective producers. 

“This confirms an appetite for the construction of new Anaerobic Digestion plants and a significant increase in the production of biomethane nationally, which could enter the gas network by 2030. RFI responses, both in potential number and biomethane volume terms, also serve to underline the robustness of the Government’s 2030 biomethane ambition. 

Today’s announcement gives a blueprint going forward and means that prospective producers know the Government is committed to ensuring the industry grows and develops swiftly. It could make a tangible impact in reducing Ireland’s carbon emissions, if it can scale up at pace. Gas Networks Ireland already injects biomethane into the network and we have more agreements in place to connect more AD plants directly to the network.”

New Mitchelstown CGI in the works  

Gas Networks Ireland is also progressing a Central Grid Injection (CGI) facility in Mitchelstown in Co. Cork. When operating at full capacity, it will have the potential to inject up to 700 GWh of renewable gas into the gas network per annum, reducing emissions by c. 130,000 tonnes of CO2 per annum. The modular build facility is currently in the detailed design phase and equipment procurement is underway. Construction is expected to start later this year, with an opening expected by Q1 2025. 

Biomethane is a renewable energy that is structurally identical to natural gas and can be used in exactly the same way through existing infrastructure, including boilers and appliances, meaning customers 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.

Biomethane is initially produced through the breakdown of organic material (feedstock) by micro-organisms in large oxygen-free tanks (anaerobic digesters) into biogas and digestate.   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.

Furthermore, biomethane offers the Irish agriculture sector an opportunity to make a further meaningful contribution to delivering on carbon emissions reduction.  It also allows farming families to diversify and add a new revenue stream. Biomethane production also supports the circular economy; digestate (a by-product from the biomethane production process) can be used as a replacement for spreading slurry and chemical fertiliser – saving farmers money and leading to better environmental outcomes.

Best potential for biomethane per capita 

The European Commission has identified Ireland as the EU country with the best potential for biomethane per capita, meaning the country is very well placed to benefit from this industry. However, to stimulate a biomethane industry in Ireland and allow it to reach its full potential, the correct policy and support mechanisms are required. Over the last 10 years, across the EU biomethane production has grown at 19.6%.  This trend is expected to continue.

At EU level, usage of biomethane is well diversified: Power Generation (15%); Buildings (22%); Transport (19%); Industry 14%; and Other 30%.  The balance is used differently depending on the market. For example, Estonia, Finland and Italy use biomethane for Transport, while the UK uses it c. 50% in buildings, 40% in Power Generation and 10% in Industry.  Feedstocks for biomethane production are approximately two thirds agricultural-based and 11% organic municipal waste and 11% industrial waste.

Biomethane Energy Report – Gas Networks Ireland

Gas Networks Ireland has published the Biomethane Energy Report, a comprehensive study detailing the key findings from a national Request for Information process targeting biomethane producers.

Our ambition is that the gas network will be net-zero carbon by 2050. We play an essential role in moving Ireland’s energy. Now, by working to replace natural gas with renewable gases that complement intermittent renewable electricity, Gas Networks Ireland is supporting Ireland’s journey to a cleaner energy future. This report outlines how we can transform our modern and flexible gas network to support the development of an indigenous biomethane industry and enhance security of energy supply.

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GRAZE Gas Project and Mitchelstown Central Grid Injection

The Mitchelstown Central Grid Injection (CGI) facility is part of a €30 million project that will facilitate the injection of biomethane into Ireland’s transmission network. Biomethane is fully compatible with the existing national gas network, appliances, technologies and vehicles, and will ultimately replace natural gas to reduce emissions in heating, industry, transport and power generation, while also supporting the decarbonisation of the agri-food sector.

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