RGFI – Ireland Biomethane – Pathway to 2030


June 11, 2024

RGFI – Ireland Biomethane – Pathway to 2030

Climeaction is privileged to be among the sponsors of the upcoming Ireland Biomethane – Pathway to 2030 Conference, scheduled for June 12th 2024, at Croke Park in Dublin. Hosted by the RGFI, this conference marks the launch of Ireland’s first National Biomethane Strategy. The event will feature industry leaders and experts in both panel discussions and a series of mini masters

Climeaction’s CEO, Paul Murphy will host a panel discussion on ‘Ireland’s Next Steps’. Among the panel will be Dr Paul Crosson, Teagasc; Noel Banville, Irish Farmers Association; Kieran Tarpey, Entrust Planning and Environmental; Eoin Brennan, Flogas.

We recently had the pleasure of speaking with Caroline Nolan from Authenticity. In our discussion we discussed the inspiration behind the creation of the event, the biggest barriers to industry growth, and more. Keep reading below to learn more!

We aim to position AD biomethane and its co products – digestate fertiliser and biogenic CO2 – at the centre of the rural circular bioeconomy, to develop Ad biomethane based biorefineries.

What inspired the creation of the Ireland Biomethane – pathway to 2030 event, and what are its primary goals?

“The Conference is part of ongoing work by RGFI to advocate for a sustainable AD biomethane industry at the core of the rural circular bioeconomy, identify barriers, promote opportunities and encourage a collaborative, strategic approach. The task of accelerating the development of the industry to meet Government  targets for biomethane production to decarbonise is enormous and complex, and the  industry – from farmer and developer to technologist, researcher, supplier and end consumer needs to come together to consider the options, potential barriers, and opportunities. Its primary goal is to develop the Roadmap to implement the National Biomethane Strategy and to also seek to review the Strategy as part of the phased approach.”

What were the factors which influenced the selection of speakers for the event?

“We quickly identified important themes and chose a selection of public sector, industry and independent people with related current experience and ability to communicate important messages – in particular we sought to include people with direct experience relative to Planning, Technology and Grid, and Sustainability.”

Can you elaborate on the significance of the 5.7 TWh biomethane target by 2030 for Ireland, and how this event aims to support achieving it?

“Having the Target has galvanised action across Government and keeps decarbonisation in focus, though there are other benefits and of course the business model must also work.” 

How realistic is the goal of achieving a biomethane industry, and what are the biggest barriers to industry growth?

The industry is already growing, with some planning permissions in process and granted even before the Government Strategy and supports were identified. Potential barriers include the fact that it is a new sector. It is hard to convince investors, as issues relevant to the full valorisation opportunity through digestate fertiliser and biogenic CO2 have yet to be ironed out. Much more work is also needed to improve general understanding of the benefits and potential to rural communities and farmers in particular, evidence is needed but it can be hard to relate to international comparisons.”

How does this event facilitate collaboration and engagement among the diverse group of stakeholders, including farmers, developers, and regulators?

“The widest range of stakeholders was targeted mainly through publications and professional bodies, with a particular incentive to farmers, publicised through the media, to attend with 50% discount offered. The event has numerous panel and round table discussion sessions, and the evening Reception also fosters networking. It is anticipated that the conclusions of these discussions will further point towards collaborations going forward.” 

How will increasing biomethane production contribute to Ireland’s decarbonisation strategy and overall climate action plan?

“AD biomethane has a particular role to play in decarbonising hard to decarbonise sectors, such as industrial thermal processes which currently rely on fossil fuel natural gas. It can, however, have a wider application. The government has set a target of 5.7Twh which will require the development of c 200 large scale biomethane plants.” 

What do you see as the biggest challenges and opportunities facing the biomethane industry in Ireland today?

“Our biggest challenges include sourcing investment, increasing public understanding, as well as building farmer confidence. However, there are significant opportunities as well. We aim to position AD biomethane and its co products – digestate fertiliser and biogenic CO2 – at the centre of the rural circular bioeconomy, to develop Ad biomethane based biorefineries.

There are also opportunities to help decarbonise and take climate action, reduce reliance on artificial fertilisers and slurry manure, thus improving water quality through the application of digestate fertiliser, provide additional income to the rural bioeconomy through biogenic CO2. Moreover, we can improve biodiversity through better soil management, use of mixed species pastures and digestate fertiliser. Ultimately, our efforts support national Climate Action, Biodiversity , Water Quality and Bioeconomy Plans.” 

How will achieving the biomethane targets contribute to wider environmental and socio-economic benefits for agriculture, industry, and communities in Ireland?

“RGFI has been advocating for matching capital funding, a Renewable Heat Obligation scheme and  clear guidelines on the development of an agri-feedstock-based AD biomethane industry since 2014. It commissioned the first economic assessment of biomethane in Ireland, in 2019, which was acknowledged in the Government Strategy. The initial €40m being provided in capital grants will kick start the development of circa 10 x 40 GWh AD plants within the next 18 months. While a modest beginning, this is a crucial first step. We look forward to working through the detail with Government on behalf of our members who range from farmers to large scale energy users. RGFI welcomes the Government’s commitment to operate the Renewable Heat Obligation scheme from 2024 and to provide a further Capital Funding in the 2025 Budget, saying this must be adequate to support the construction of up to 130 more median sized biomethane production units. RGFI also welcomed the provision for a Charter to underpin the sustainability of all projects which is a key factor in the RGFI submission.”

Looking beyond 2030, what is your vision for the future of biomethane in Ireland, and how do you see the industry evolving?

RGFI will continue to provide a unified voice for a sustainable, renewable gas sector, effecting change through collaboration, and representing our members.

Our vision is for a rural, renewable gas, circular bioeconomy which is farmer first and supporting rural communities; taking climate action by decarbonising industry; providing indigenous, local energy security; improving biodiversity and soil health,  and reducing water pollution.

With Ireland’s temperate climate, it is well positioned to produce high quantities of grass and forage. Accordingly, RGFI sees “green biorefining” as a key enabling technology for agri-led biomethane expansion and sustainable development. Green biorefineries, co-located with AD plants, can process biodegradable -materials, such as grass, and silage to extract valuable compounds.  RGFI welcomes the Government investment of  up to €30 million in biorefinery piloting facilities over the next two to three years.

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