Major IEA conference on renewable gas in Ireland

8 Sep 2011

With car maker Audi pioneering e-gas research to soon have methane-powered cars on the roads, an International Energy Agency (IEA) conference on renewable gas will see experts from across Europe converge in Cork, Ireland, next week to discuss the country’s potential to inject renewable gas into the gas grid through the conversion of biogas into biomethane, or to use it as a source of renewable transport fuel.

Germany’s Audi is investing heavily in research to pioneer technology to introduce methane-powered cars from 2013 onwards, making the e-gas from energy derived from North Sea wind farms.

So, from Ireland’s perspective, next week’s International Energy Agency conference, Energy from Biogas, will take place at University College Cork (UCC) on 15 September to look into the country’s capacity to really push the biogas sector here, creating new green jobs in the process, while also contributing to a cleaner gas grid overall.

Biogas, also termed biomethane or renewable gas, is a versatile energy vector with applications in electricity, heat and transport, according to Dr Jerry D Murphy, a lecturer in Transportation & PI in Bioenergy at the Environmental Research Institute (ERI) at UCC, who is chairing next week’s event.

“In Germany, on average, each week a new facility comes online injecting renewable gas into the gas grid; the potential for Ireland with our feed stocks and our modern gas grid is very significant,” he said.

At the conference, presentations will be given from top academics in the renewable gas field, including Prof Charles Banks of the Bio-Energy Research Group at the School of Civil Engineering and the Environment, University of Southampton; Jukka Rintala, professor of bioprocess engineering, Tampere University, Finland; Prof Bernd Linke, ATB Potsdam, Germany; and Simon Zielonka, University of Hohenheim, Germany.

Biogas dispenser for transport fuel

Biogas dispenser for transport fuel

Murphy said the main aims of the conference would be to highlight successful facilities with different feedstocks and to highlight the advantages of upgrading biogas to biomethane for either injection to the gas grid or use as a source of renewable transport fuel.

Speakers at the event will also examine the potential of, and barriers to, use of digestate as a fertiliser, as well as giving details of ongoing biogas research happening around Europe.

What is anaerobic digestion?

Anaerobic digestion itself and the production of biogas is a technology with applications in biofuels, waste treatment, renewable energy and sustainable agriculture. Germany has been taking the lead on anaerobic digestion, with Murphy pointing to how the country has more commercial facilities than any other country, with 6,000 digesters at the end of 2010.

In stark contrast, Ireland just has four anaerobic digestors up and running, with 50 planned for both North and South of the island.

Dr Jerry Murphy, UCC

Dr Jerry Murphy, principal investigator in Bioenergy at the Environmental Research Institute, University College Cork

Murphy said Ireland has an array of opportunities if it embraces anaerobic digestion. For instance, he said it would bring benefits through reduced energy importation, reduced carbon fines, helping the environment and facilitating organic waste treatment.

“It would also provide rural employment to operate the digesters and help re-employ the construction workforce in building digesters,” said Murphy.

The conference will be hosted by the ERI and funded by the IEA and the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland.

Areas that will be covered at Energy from Biogas

  • Crop digestion
  • Biomethane and grid Injection
  • Digestion of food waste in the UK
  • The Swedish experience of gas upgrading, gas injection and transport fuel use
  • Green gas: the Dutch experience
  • Experience with gas grid injection
  • Interpretation of the animal byproducts regulations in Ireland
  • Utilisation of digestate as biofertiliser
  • Quality assurance of digestate in Switzerland
  • Biogas research in Finland
  • Effect of organic loading rate on biogas yield from animal slurry and biogas crops
  • Biogas research in the ERI, UCC
  • Biogas research in Teagasc, Grange, Ireland

Practitioners who will speak at the event will include Anneli Petersson of the Swedish Gas Centre, Sweden; Nathalie Bachmann, EREP SA, Switzerland; and John Baldwin, CNG Services, UK.

Meanwhile, policy makers David Baxter of the Clean Energies Unit, European Commission Joint Research Centre; Mathieu Dumont, Secretariat Working Group on Green Gas, The Netherlands; and Melanie Farrar, DAFF, Ireland, will also speak at the conference.

Topmost photo: A maize digestor

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic