Renewable gas is good for the environment and has socio-economic benefits. It helps farmers to reduce green house gas (GHG) emissions, by recycling agricultural organic materials, producing organic soil improvers and capturing carbon in soil (sequestration). Agriculture currently accounts for 35% of Ireland’s GHG emissions, mainly from current farm practices and land management.
A sustainable Irish renewable gas industry can digest 4.8 million tonnes of slurry and 5Mt of agricultural organic by-products and residues annually. It can produce organic soil improvers with the potential for soil carbon sequestration to save 14Mt of CO2 and an additional 2.6m tonnes of CO2 emissions in energy consumption per year. This reduction in GHG emissions in turn will protect our international renown as an exporter of high-quality food and drink.
Bio-fertiliser, or organic soil improvers, return essential nutrients and carbon to the soil (carbon sequestration), further reducing CO2 in the atmosphere. They also reduce the chance of nitrates leaching into water courses by replacing artificial fertilisers. Organic soil improvers release nutrients slowly, with easy up-take by soil and plants.
Food and drink production processes contribute a further 13% to national GHG emissions and these industries are largely dependent on gas as their primary energy source. Many of the leading agri-food businesses are fully behind the RGFI initiatives and proposals to reduce their carbon footprint and align with EU Green Deal Farm to Fork.
The transport sector is one of the most challenging to decarbonise. Between 1990 and 2017, its GHG emissions increased by 133.2% in Ireland, more than any other sector.
Ireland will not achieve its target of 10% of final energy use in the transport sector from renewables by 2020. Biomethane is particularly well suited for use in heavy goods and commercial vehicles and can reduce carbon emissions by over a fifth compared to traditional fuels, while also reducing other emissions significantly. Heavy goods vehicles and buses are a key target for biomethane. While only accounting for 4% of vehicles on Irish roads, they account for 30% of all emissions in the road transport sector. Gas-powered lorries are now on Irish roads, with demand growing for sustainable alternatives to decarbonise transport.
How is Renewable Gas Sustainable?
Renewable Gas produced in Ireland will be required to adhere to sustainability criteria, set out in the Renewable Energy Directive recast (REDII). These criteria require a producer to undergo a life cycle analysis (LCA) of their process, accounting for all emissions associated with the production process from cultivation of feedstocks to processing and transportation of the gas. The results of this LCA must show that the total emissions balance of the process (those created less those avoided / abated) must be below a minimum level for the gas to be certified as Renewable and sustainable.
The Irish Green Gas Certification Scheme will facilitate producers to provide evidence that their processes are fully compliant with these sustainability criteria and provide comfort to end users and policy makers that the gas produced is sustainable.
The following elements are critical to achieve compliance under the GHG calculation in RED II:
- Plant and process design
- Slurry supplies fresh of GHG mitigated
- Methane slippage eliminated / minimised
- Bio-fertiliser spreading and land bank management / optimisation
- Feedstock mix (co-digestion)
- eg max 60% grass and min 40% slurry
- Cultivation – bio-fertiliser use
- reduce or eliminate use of artificial / chemical fertiliser
- mitigation of soil nitrous oxide GHG emissions
- Renewable energy utilisation 25%-100%
- heating – bio-LPG, biomethane CHP boiler
- electricity – solar, CHP, reduce reliance on grid electricity
- tractors and transport fuel – biomethane
- hydrogen and ammonia
- Carbon replacement ie displacement of
- industrial and horticultural CO2
The GHG Life Cycle Assessment of anaerobic digestion with slurry and grass (or other equivalent feedstocks) must achieve the minimum GHG saving target, but can also far exceed this target.
Renewable gas can play an important part in the circular rural economy with a benefit cost ratio of 1.26 according to the KPMG Business Case for Biomethane in Ireland. Most renewable gas will come from re-cycling bio-degradable and agricultural organic materials, by products, giving farmers the opportunity to close the circle in terms of carbon neutrality, and protecting our sustainable food producer credentials.
Biomethane produced from agricultural organic matter and by-products has the potential to save 2.6 Mt of CO2 pa in energy consumption by 2030, which would significantly decarbonise heat demand across the residential, commercial and agricultural sectors, creating over 3,000 rural jobs and provide an additional complimentary additional income for farming families.
Using renewable gas provides the lowest cost solution to decarbonising heat demand, a more economical alternative to other renewable heat technologies and can save money for end users in the future. It is an on demand, reliable, predictable energy source.
Renewable gas as an indigenous industry gives Ireland greater energy security. About 85% of our energy comes from outside the state at a cost of approximately €5.7 billion per annum. This is a worrying issue for our nation when energy security is one of the biggest challenges facing the developed world.
For the energy consumer already using natural gas, there is a simple switch to biomethane, existing technologies and infrastructure can operate as normal.
Like other gases, biomethane can be stored. The gas network is a form of storage and biomethane would be given priority over fossil gas, reducing reliance on imported gas.
Yes. The renewable gas industry is highly regulated and must adhere to all the safety and regulatory requirements associated with natural gas and as a result it is very safe. AD technology is a mature technology, used all over the world to reduce emissions in agriculture and industrial by-products and waste.
Renewable Gas Forum Ireland (RGFI) represents the interests of the renewable gas industry across all parties to form a collaborated and co-ordinated vision to support policy makers in meeting industry’s mandatory decarbonisation targets using renewable gas. It is a forum for information gathering and knowledge transfer amongst members to ensure the industry is developed under suitable market conditions, providing consumer and investor confidence. The renewable gas industry needs to be operated in a safe, sustainable and competitive manner, built on best practice. See About Us, Our Work
RGFI works closely with the following important stakeholders across the industry;
- Gas Networks Ireland (GNI) owns, operates, builds and maintains the natural gas network in Ireland. They are responsible for ensuring that gaseous fuels are transported from production to end use in an efficient and safe manner.
GNI are primarily responsible for:
– Providing connections to the gas network for biomethane injection.
– Operating the Irish Green Gas Certification scheme to certify the injection of biomethane onto the network.
– Developing off grid solutions to ensure gas can be transported from source of production to end user in an efficient manner as possible.Gas Networks Ireland have an ambition to have 20% of the gas flowing through their network as renewable gas by 2030 and have been a key promotor and enabler of the renewable gas opportunity in Ireland to date.
- Gas Shippers and Suppliers oversee the entry and sale of renewable and natural gas in Ireland.
- Commission for Regulation of Utilities oversees the regulation of the gas, energy and water sector and will be a key decision maker in relation to polices relating to access and standards associated with the gas grid.
- Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) oversees the application of animal by-product regulations for the use of agricultural feedstocks for biomethane production. They are also now responsible for the delivery of many of the climate action targets associated with agriculture specifically.
- Department of Communications, Climate Action and the Environment is primarily responsible for the delivery of national and European policy relating to energy, decarbonisation and the environment.
- Teagasc is the national organisation tasked with research and advising national policy in relation to the future of agriculture, on matters such as sustainability and viability.
- The Farming Community is at the core of renewable gas production. RGFI works closely with representatives of the farming community such as the regional co-operatives the Irish Farmers Association , the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers Association, and others, to ensure a coordinated approach which represents the best interests of the farming community is taken.
- The Waste Sector. Although the overall resource potential of this sector is smaller than that of agriculture, it still could decarbonise ~3% of Ireland’s natural gas demand.
- End Consumers who will purchase the renewable gas to offset their own energy needs.