Investors standing by as appetite for Irish Biomethane production grows

Cows Biomethane

The Irish Government have a target of 80% as the amount of energy they hope to be generating from renewable sources by 2030. With 7GW (gigawatts) of this suggested to come from wind generated power and a further 8GW coming from solar generation.

Ireland is also one of over 150 countries that have pledged to be net zero emissions by 2050. Ambitious or Trail blazing? If we are to achieve what we set out to do, it will mean that Ireland could be one of the biggest producers of wind energy in the world. Obviously being an Island bordering the Atlantic ocean gives us an enviable advantage but what else do we need to do?

A potential solution is biogas, a strategy which Echelon is pursuing at its data center project in Arklow. Echelon and Biocore Environmental Ltd, an Irish company generating renewable power from biosolids, have reached an agreement to co-locate a biogas production facility on the Echelon Wicklow campus located in Arklow.

Proposed 90 Acre site of Echelon Campus, Arklow

Biocore has described its relationship with Echelon as symbiotic, as the heat from the data centre can be used in the biogas production process and the gas itself can then be used for back up power through the use of batteries.

“Biogas production is a virtuous circle – we extract the potentially pollutant organic materials and transform them into gas either for supply to the gas network, or for use in generating power,” said Declan Murray, Managing Director of Biocore Environmental Ltd.

“The run off from the production process is dried and re-supplied to the farms from which much of our organic feedstock can be sourced. This residue makes an excellent fertiliser – and means that none of the organic material goes to waste.” he continued.

Minister for Agriculture, Food & Marine, Charlie McGonagle speaking at the Joint Committee on Environment and Climate Action debate earlier this month said: Delivery of a biomethane industry of scale will be important for agriculture, but also for industry and the decarbonisation of heat supply. We are currently commissioning consultants to develop a biomethane strategy by quarter 3 of this year.

The number of overall farmers farming organically has more than doubled to approximately 4,300. It is absolutely fair to say that there has been a really significant step change in attitude, culture, approach and appetite to going organic. We are reflecting that in funding. Organic farmers are also eligible for support of 60% in the organic capital investment scheme, OCIS, and have priority access to ACRES.

**The methane content of biogas typically ranges from 45% to 75% by volume, with most of the remainder being CO2. Biomethane (also known as “renewable natural gas”) is a near-pure source of methane 

Infographic: Biomethane & Biogas for Beginners

Padraig Fleming, Gas Network’s Ireland Biomethane Programme Manager – “It is clear from the increased focus by Minister Ryan in recent weeks in increasing the targeted volume of biomethane by 2030. The approval of the rollout of the Renewable Heat Obligation and of Gas Networks Ireland as the green gas certifying body lays down a marker for all of us in the industry to accelerate this renewable sector and play our part in addressing climate change”.

“This really sends out a strong signal that the hunger and appetite is there for biomethane production in Ireland. It’s a very flexible gas that contributes to the circular economy, as farm and food waste can be treated to produce renewable gas, and the by-products include a digestate that can be re-used as fertilizer and carbon dioxide, which other industries utilise.

A formal certification for renewable gases which was introduced last August is certainly welcome as interest piques in the industry and global investors weigh in. February saw Goldman Sachs pledging an investment of $1billion into their European biomethane business ‘Verdalia Bioenergy.’ Meanwhile, closer to home, UK company Cycle0 have just set up an Irish division and are ready to hit the ground running. The company already boasts 18 plants already producing biomethane or in buildproduction stage across Europe and Latin America.

At a Request for Information (RFI) seminar held at Clayton Hotel, Ballsbridge late last year, Russell Smyth, Head of Sustainable Futures at KPMG had this to say: “while historically the policy focus has been on decarbonising the electricity system, with wind and solar dominating, the greater focus on thermal and agricultural decarbonisation has brought biomethane back in vogue.  With the war in Ukraine, huge increases in gas prices and concerns around security of supply, biomethane is increasingly recognised as a uniquely positioned and flexible renewable technology.”

“An Irish indigenous 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,” David Hanahoe, Gas Networks Ireland growth development manager.

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