In 2018, Gas Networks Ireland will introduce renewable gas onto the Irish gas network for the first time writes Pádraic Ó hUiginn. Renewable gas, also known as biogas or greengas, will be introduced into the Irish market as a means of further reducing emissions. As natural gas and biomethane are interchangeable, renewable gas can be used in the same way and in the same appliances as natural gas. Customers, business and domestic, would never be aware that the gas they are using is a renewable alternative. From a financial perspective, this means that commercial customers can adopt the new renewable fuel without any investment.
Renewable gas is generated principally through anaerobic digestion. Not only is this gas renewable, it will also be sourced in Ireland. By using agricultural residues and by-products to make renewable gas, there is an opportunity to significantly reduce emissions from Ireland’s important farming sector. This will deliver a double saving –by reducing Ireland’s emissions, we come a step closer to addressing our environmental policy commitments, while also developing new revenue sources for Irish agriculture, our original bio-economy.
Gas Networks Ireland is part of the Ervia commercial semistate company that owns and operates the national gas grid in Ireland and together with project partner NUI Galway, it is leading the European Union co-funded Causeway project. Causeway, funded under the EU’s Connecting Europe Facility (CEF), will deliver a clean energy project for Ireland’s transport sector, and in doing so, provide a template for the rest of Europe. Causeway’s infrastructural roll-out is carried out by Gas Networks Ireland, with NUI Galway’s Ryan Institute leading the dissemination element of the €25 million project. Causeway’s work will facilitate new green energy developments across Europe. Its impacts will be studied by Gas Networks Ireland and disseminated by a Ryan Institute team at NUI Galway,
Causeway project lead, Gas Networks Ireland, believes that at least 20% of all gas used in Ireland can be renewable by 2030, with this figure growing rapidly thereafter. This would make a significant impact on reducing Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions and will ensure that Ireland remains a country in which environmentally-sound manufacturing is possible.
Causeway will see the development of a natural gas transport re-fuelling network in Ireland. The project will support an overall nationwide roll-out of 70 compressed natural gas filling stations.
Combined with Causeway’s introduction of renewable gas into the natural gas network for the first time, the roll-out of the public network of natural gas filling stations will see these stations become a pathway or “causeway” to renewable gas in transport –an opportunity to significantly de-carbonise transport in Ireland.
The work which is undertaken in Ireland will be monitored and documented to capture the key lessons learnt from the deployment of CNG and renewable gas. This research will then be fed back to gas operators all over Europe and will assist in the development of similar projects across the continent.
Earlier this year Mr Denis O’Sullivan, now Managing Director of Gas Networks Ireland, explained the importance of the Causeway project to Ireland: “Transport accounts for over one third of all energy used in Ireland. The development of a natural gas transport network will significantly de-carbonise Ireland’s commercial fleet. CNG, and the soon to be introduced renewable gas, will play a major role in making transport in Ireland cleaner. Gas Networks Ireland is determined to play an important role in facilitating the development of this new, cleaner transport network. It is particularly important that the advances we are making through this project, and through the work of NUI Galway, will play a role in changing the transport landscape throughout Europe.”
Ervia CEO, Mr Mike Quinn, has set out that Ervia and Gas Networks Ireland have developed a long-term vision to outline how they could play their part in decarbonising Ireland and in particular the electricity, heating and transport sectors. This vision is to utilise natural gas as a “bridging fuel” out to 2030 and then decarbonised gas as a “destination fuel” out to and beyond 2050.
Mr Quinn has also set out that over the next five years, Ervia plans to construct six renewable gas injection facilities with a total combined annual capacity of 1,450GWh. That is enough energy to heat 145,000 homes with a 100% carbon neutral fuel.
By 2030 Ervia is targeting that 20% of total gas demand will be met by renewable gas - a figure supported by a recent Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland costs and benefits report on biogas and biomethane in Ireland.
These are exciting times for the emerging bioeconomy in Ireland and Causeway marks a significant “first” as it will see commercial deployment of a bio-based product, renewable biomethane, on the Irish national gas grid, for the first time.
This interview first appeared in Issue #10 of the Bio-Based World Quarterly, which had a special focus on the Irish bio-economy, read the whole issue here.
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