Bord Gais has launched a report on ‘The Future of Renewable Gas in Ireland’. Produced in association with UCC and Ernst & Young, the report outlines how grass and waste can be converted into natural gas that can then be used locally or piped into the national grid for distribution around Ireland. The report estimates that 7.5% of Ireland’s natural gas demand could be met by renewable gas, the equivalent of heating 300,000 homes each year.
“Capturing this renewable gas resource would be a considerable step in addressing Ireland’s challenging renewable energy and waste management objectives,” comments John Mullins, chief executive of Bord Gais. “It would also help reduce our dependence on energy imports, provide jobs in the construction and operation of biomethane plants, and create new business opportunities among the farming community in rural Ireland.”
The technology is already in use in other countries: for example, farmers in Denmark and Germany have formed co-operatives to finance, build and run such renewable gas facilities. In Stockholm, the city treats municipal waste to create natural gas for use as a transport fuel. This would be an option in Ireland also, as Bord Gais is currently trialling a production-line natural gas vehicle (NGV) in its fleet. Cities such as Madrid are strong advocates of NGVs for public transport and fleet operators, to reduce both carbon and other emissions.
Dr Jerry Murphy, principle investigator in Bioenergy and Biofuels, Environmental Research Institute, UCC, explains: “Biogas is produced when feedstocks, such as organic wastes, and energy crops, such as grass silage, are converted using anaerobic digestion technology. The ‘raw’ biogas can then be cleaned and upgraded to biomethane – renewable gas – and injected into the national gas grid. Distribution of this renewable gas is optimised due to the existing, modern, extensive natural gas grid. A biomethane industry could make a significant contribution to the ‘green tech’ sector in line with Ireland’s strategy to create sustainable knowledge-driven industries.”
John Mullins adds: “What this study has found is that biomethane represents a significant and under-utilised source of renewable energy in Ireland. Undoubtedly, there are obstacles to making renewable gas a viable energy source in Ireland. However, we believe that, if the necessary parties work together, these barriers can be overcome in a relatively short timeframe. We welcome the support of industry, the SEAI, the EPA and other relevant parties in the publication of this report and look forward to working with all policy makers in the development of a renewable gas industry in Ireland.”