New revenue stream for farmers could significantly reduce emissions and replace chemical fertilisers
Significant opportunity for the agricultural and energy sectors to join forces and create a thriving biomethane economy in Ireland by 2030
“We believe there is a significant opportunity for the agricultural and energy sectors to join forces and create a thriving biomethane economy in Ireland by 2030, and with the right structures and policies in place, Ireland will achieve its biomethane targets in less than seven years.”
That was the message from Gas Networks Ireland’s Director of Customer and Business Development, David Kelly as he addressed the Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine on Wednesday in the Oireachtas.
Committee Cathaoirleach Deputy Jackie Cahill said:
“Development of biomethane energy generation can play a key part in ensuring the Irish agriculture sector meets its carbon reduction targets. At the same time this can offer important benefits to Ireland, including contributing to our energy security, offering additional income streams to farming families, and ensuring farmers play their part in the national decarbonisation of heating and electricity generation.”
Structurally identical to natural gas, biomethane is a carbon neutral renewable gas that can be made from organic sources such as food waste, brown bin waste and farm waste through a process known as anaerobic digestion.
Biomethane is fully compatible with Ireland’s gas network and existing appliances, technologies and vehicles, and its increased use will seamlessly replace natural gas to reduce emissions in heating, industry, transport and power generation, while also supporting the decarbonisation of the agri-food sector. There is no impact for customers when natural gas is replaced with biomethane in our network, it is completely interchangeable, requiring no investment from the end user.
“There is significant scope for biomethane production in Ireland. In less than seven years' time, with the right structures and policies put in place, Ireland can achieve the government target of 5.7 TWh as set out under the Climate Action Plan –approximately 10% of the country’s current gas demand. I am confident that this is not only an achievable ambition, but potentially even a conservative one” Mr Kelly added.
Gas Networks Ireland, who operate and maintain the network in Ireland, is working to decarbonise the gas grid by ensuring all its infrastructure is future-proof and renewables-ready as the natural gas which flows through the pipes is replaced with renewable gases, such as biomethane as well as green hydrogen in the future.
Speaking about the benefits of an Irish biomethane economy, Mr Kelly said:
“A biomethane industry could provide a new revenue stream for farmers as waste can become a source of income. Replacing 10% of natural gas with biomethane would result in a carbon abatement of 1.1 million Tonnes of CO2.
An important biproduct of biomethane production is digestate which can replace imported fertiliser, protecting our water courses by reducing nitrates and reducing Ireland’s exposure to international fluctuations in price and supply.”
Along with Mr Kelly, Gas Networks Ireland’s Director of Strategy and Regulation, Brian Mullins, and Head of Business Development Karen Doyle, also participated in the Joint Committee meeting, along with representatives from BioCore Environmental Ltd., IrBEA, RGFI and Teagasc.