Biomethane will in coming years be generated at hundreds of sites around the country through the use of anaerobic digesters (ADs) and injected into the national gas grid.
Ireland is uniquely well-positioned to exploit this green gas. Farmers and the food industry in particular are set to play a key role in turning energy from waste, such as pig slurry, into heating.
Anaerobic digestion uses microbes to break down biodegradable material in the absence of oxygen. It generates biogas, which is combusted to generate electricity and heat, or can be processed into renewable natural gas (biomethane) and transportation fuels.
Currently, there are fewer than a dozen anaerobic digesters in Ireland, but Ian Kilgannon, innovation and business development manager with Gas Networks Ireland (GNI), says it is a proven technology and a low-risk investment.
Ireland is about to benefit from coming late to the game.
Outside of greater Dublin, the economy is largely based on agriculture, so hence the immense potential to generate biomethane using farm waste that farmers otherwise struggle to deal with.
Converting 50 per cent of buses and trucks to CNG would result in yearly fuel savings of €524 million over diesel
However, it is more than that. GNI’s large energy users, such as those in manufacturing, pharmaceuticals and agrifoods, want renewable energy at the heart of their production systems – many are increasingly mindful of their corporate social responsibility when it comes to the climate and the environment, he adds.
In State policy terms, biomethane is about to be recognised for its role in decarbonising gas and addressing climate change challenges, and is expected to benefit from a State subsidy backed by major capital investment under the National Development Plan.