The decarbonisation of the gas network through the introduction of renewable gases is an important part of Ireland’s net zero strategy. With Ireland also seeking to identify strategies to decarbonise the agricultural sector, the production of renewable gas from agricultural activities is an attractive proposition for Government, gas utilities and the agricultural sector.
Focus on biomethane
Biomethane can be produced from a broad range of biomass materials including agricultural wastes, food waste and crops. Given Ireland’s large agri-food sector, biomethane production is recognised as having the potential to allow farms to become more sustainable while also providing rural jobs and a diversified income for the farming sector. The use of biomethane can help produce a circular economy through the production of renewable gas and bio-fertiliser.
Furthermore, biomethane is a flexible and easily storable fuel and when mixed with natural gas, no adjustments to equipment designed to distribute natural gas are required. Biomethane has already begun to replace natural gas in the national network.
A number of policy measures have been introduced which will help incentivise the development of biomethane production.
Renewable gas is already being integrated into the gas system. GNI allows for the injection of biomethane into the existing gas network through two forms:
GNI’s gas injection point in Cush, County Kildare and its planned CGI facility in Mitchelstown are examples of DI and CGI plants (respectively) and demonstrate the investment already taking place in infrastructure that facilitates biomethane injection at scale. The proposed CGI facility in Mitchelstown will have the capacity to receive renewable gas produced from farm and food waste from approximately 20 local producers with capacity to inject enough biomethane to meet the requirements of up to 64,000 tonnes. CGI facilities like this are key to the facilitation of a distributed network of biomethane production facilities.
The opportunity for Ireland
With a strong agri-food sector, the European Commission has identified Ireland as having the highest potential for renewable gas production per capita within the EU by 2030. The revised and ambitious biomethane production targets set out in CAP23 demonstrates the Government’s commitment to realising that potential.
CAP23 has also stated that to achieve the target of 5.7 TWh by 2030 this will require approximately 150 to 200 anaerobic digestion plants. This is a significant number of new projects, which will require very significant private investment. It is important that developers and investors in these projects have clear investment signals including in relation to financial support, route(s) to market and a predictable planning and consenting regime. The publication of the National Biomethane Strategy may offer clarity on some of these areas.