€30m investment into renewable gas project
Gas Networks Ireland is expected to begin construction of Ireland’s first large-scale renewable gas injection facility next summer, the company’s chief executive officer, Cathal Marley, will tell delegates at the Energy Ireland conference in Croke Park.
Mr Marley will outline details of the €30 million Green Renewable Agricultural Zero Emissions (GRAZE) renewable gas project, which includes the construction of a central grid injection (CGI) facility in Mitchelstown, County Cork.
The new facility will receive and inject biomethane – a carbon neutral renewable gas made from farm and food waste through a process called anaerobic digestion – from up to 20 local farm-based producers.
Biomethane is fully compatible with the existing national gas network, appliances, technologies and vehicles, and will seamlessly replace natural gas to reduce emissions in heating, industry, transport and power generation, whilst also supporting the decarbonisation of the agri-food sector.
At maximum capacity, the facility will inject enough biomethane to meet the requirements of up to 64,000 homes.
Eamon Ryan TD, minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, said: “The GRAZE project is being funded under the Climate Action Fund, which is administered by the department of the environment, climate and communications.
“This project shows how we can diversify our gas supplies, by speeding up the roll-out of renewable gases like biomethane. Projects such as this will reduce our reliance on imported fossil fuels, which is especially important now in the context of the war in Ukraine.
“The Government’s National Energy Security Framework, which sets out how Ireland is prepared to deal with potential shocks to our energy system, has highlighted the need for alternatives to natural gas, such as biomethane and hydrogen, to be developed to enhance Ireland’s security of supply and provide additional diversification for Ireland’s energy mix.
“It will contribute to our broader climate goals – of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 51 percent by 2030 and reaching net zero emissions by 2050.
“This project, which champions sustainably produced, carbon-neutral renewable gas, also exemplifies the principles of the circular economy. By recycling and reusing food and farm waste we can create cleaner energy – for electricity, heat and transport.”
The renewable gas injection facility will be the centrepiece of the project, which is aimed at creating a new co-op style, sustainable farm-based renewable gas industry in the region.
Cathal Marley, Gas Networks Ireland chief executive, said: “Ireland’s national gas network must be repurposed to transport renewable biomethane and hydrogen at scale.
“Gas Networks Ireland is uniquely placed to deliver the necessary change, and with projects such as GRAZE, we’re already working hard to help deliver Ireland’s sustainable energy future.”
Mr Marley said the GRAZE project is designed to showcase large-scale agricultural biomethane clusters that can be replicated in other locations throughout the State.
Mr Marley added: “Investing in biomethane in a large-scale manner has many benefits – both for the energy sector and Irish agriculture.
“It will create significant employment, with up to 6,500 new jobs, mainly in rural Ireland, and provide new income opportunities for local communities from the sale of biomethane, feedstock used to produce the renewable gas and a highly effective organic bio-fertiliser digestate that is a by-product of the process.
“A domestic biomethane industry would not only support the decarbonisation of the agricultural sector, but it would also provide significant opportunities for rural communities and facilitate sustainable circular economies, with businesses powering their operations via renewable gas made from their own waste.”
Led by Gas Networks Ireland, the GRAZE project is supported by more than €8.4 million in funding from the Climate Action Fund, as part of the Government’s National Energy Security Framework.
Planning permission for the Central Grid Injection facility has already been granted by An Bord Pleanála and Cork County Council, and construction is expected to get underway next year.
The Climate Action Plan has set a target of 1.6 TWh of natural gas – around three percent of Ireland’s gas usage – to be replaced by biomethane by 2030.
The EU Green Deal highlighted biomethane as a vital tool in decarbonising European agriculture and energy systems, and the European Commission has identified Ireland as having the highest potential for biomethane production per capita in Europe - due in part to Ireland’s large agricultural sector.
Biomethane began seamlessly replacing natural gas in Ireland in small volumes in 2019, via the country’s first renewable gas injection point in Cush, Co Kildare, which is much smaller than the planned Mitchelstown facility.
Mr Marley said: “Along with playing a key role in meeting national and EU climate action targets, and making us less reliant on fossil fuels, there is very significant scope for biomethane production in Ireland.
“Although the quantities are currently small, biomethane is beginning to seamlessly replace natural gas and is fully compatible with existing appliances, technologies and vehicles.”
Gas Networks Ireland is also advancing plans to transport hydrogen on its network in the future. Hydrogen is a carbon free, flammable gas that can be made from renewable electricity such as wind, stored until needed, and then transported through the existing gas network.
Whilst there is currently no hydrogen on Ireland’s gas network, it is believed that blends of up to 20 percent could be transported on the existing infrastructure today.
Gas Networks Ireland representatives are currently working in partnership with 30 other energy transmission operators to plan for a new European Hydrogen Backbone (EHB) network that will largely be based on repurposing existing natural gas infrastructure.
It is envisaged that by 2040, for example, Ireland could be connected to the new network via a repurposed subsea interconnector pipeline to a future UK hydrogen network in Scotland.