Industry experts in Ireland have suggested that a biomethane economy could be created to help reduce agricultural emissions and create a new source of revenue for farmers. Gas Networks Ireland director, David Kelly, stated that with the right policies and structures in place, a new biomethane sector could play a crucial role in ensuring the agriculture sector meets its carbon reduction targets. Gas Networks Ireland, which operates the national gas network in Ireland, does not have the licence to produce gas. However, Kelly told the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine that there is a significant opportunity for the agricultural and energy sectors to work together and develop a thriving biomethane economy in Ireland by 2030.
Kelly believes that Ireland’s gas network can be a key enabler and help to accelerate the development of this new national biomethane economy. He also stated that this industry could provide a new revenue stream for rural Ireland as farm waste can become a source of income. Furthermore, an important byproduct of biomethane production is digestate, which can replace imported fertiliser, protect watercourses by reducing nitrates and diminish Ireland’s exposure to international fluctuations in price and supply.
Meanwhile, Declay Murray, chief executive of Biocore Environmental, also told the joint committee that Ireland needed to get its biomethane industry up and running to be prepared for European Commission regulations on anaerobic digestion (AD). Biocore Environmental, which has two AD plants, one in Co. Roscommon and another in the east of England, outlined to TDs and senators that currently, Ireland has around 10 AD plants, compared to around 100 in Northern Ireland, 700 in the UK and 10,000 in Germany.
Murray also highlighted the unique situation in Ireland regarding slurry. Although a farmer can take a tank of slurry from their slurry pit, put it out on the field, and that is fine, the minute they bring it to an AD plant, it becomes waste. This causes problems for farmers, and a number of them, particularly throughout the past number of wet winters, have turned up at the plant asking whether they can take some stuff in. Murray believes that an AD plant of their size in Co. Roscommon should be able to take in 5,000 to 6,000 tonnes of slurry every year and process it through the plant.
The chief executive of the Renewable Gas Forum Ireland (RGFI), PJ McCarthy, a not-for-profit industry forum for biomethane in Ireland, has also suggested that “Ireland lags well behind other EU member states” in relation to policy and legislation for the sector. McCarthy is asking the committee to support the development of a scalable and sustainable indigenous biomethane industry which he believes will be beneficial to Irish farmers as they seek to meet the twin objectives of future-proofing the continued viability of family farms and maximising the environmental and social sustainability of the sector.
In conclusion, the development of a biomethane economy in Ireland could bring many benefits to the agricultural and energy sectors. It could reduce agricultural emissions, create a new source of revenue for farmers, and replace imported fertiliser. With the right policies and structures in place, the biomethane sector could play a crucial role in ensuring that Ireland meets its carbon reduction targets. It is clear that Ireland has a unique situation regarding slurry, and the development of a biomethane sector could help to address this issue. It is essential that Ireland catches up with other EU member states regarding policy and legislation for the sector to ensure that a scalable and sustainable indigenous biomethane industry is developed in Ireland.