At least 7.5pc of Ireland’s natural-gas needs, which is the equivalent of heating 300,000 homes each year, could be met through the production of renewable gas, a new report from Bord Gáis has found.
The report, which was produced in association with UCC and Ernst & Young, outlines how grass and waste can be converted into natural gas or ‘biomethane’ that can then be used locally or piped into the national grid for distribution around Ireland.
“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 national gas grid. Distribution of this renewable gas is optimised due to the existing, modern, extensive natural gas grid,” explained principal investigator in Bioenergy and Biofuels, Environmental Research Institute, Dr Jerry Murphy.
“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,” he added.
The technology is already in use in a number of European countries. For example, farmers in Denmark and Germany have formed co-operatives to finance, build and run such renewable gas facilities.
Meanwhile in Stockholm the city treats municipal waste to create natural gas for use as a transport fuel. Bord Gais suggested this would also be an option for Ireland and said it is currently trialling a production-line natural gas vehicle (NGV) in its fleet.
“Capturing this renewable gas resource would be a considerable step in addressing Ireland’s challenging renewable-energy and waste-management objectives. 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,” said Bord Gáis CEO John Mullins.
According to Mullins, biomethane represents “a significant and under-utilised source of renewable energy in Ireland”.
He added that while there are obstacles to making renewable gas a viable energy source in Ireland, Bord Gáis believes that if the necessary parties work together “these barriers can be overcome in a relatively short timeframe”.