Renewable Gas Forum Ireland (RGFI) has been working collaboratively to create market conditions to establish Ireland’s indigenous biomethane Industry. RGFI in collaboration with industry members have been liaising with government departments, political parties, and farming representatives, to gather momentum for change with policy and legislative supports. As well as facilitating industry partnerships, such as Project Clover, RGFI has also been central to the commissioning of the Integrated Business Case for Biomethane in Ireland, prepared by KPMG.

These efforts have run in parallel with the REGATRACE Programme and RGFI’s membership of the European Biogas Association, putting EU policy at the centre of the proposed biomethane industry and related bioeconomy, helping to develop an efficient cross border gas trading platform, preparing a Vision,  Roadmap and Feasibility Analysis Guidance for Ireland,  bringing European experience, best practices and insights to bear on discussions.

The Irish Government now recognises Ireland’s potential to be a major player in biomethane production, using agricultural feedstock on-farm AD, as well as dedicated waste fed AD plants.

Speaking at the Ireland Biomethane Conference 9/10 November, hosted by RGFI, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue, announced a Government commitment to develop an Ireland Biomethane Strategy to deliver up to 5.7 Twh of indigenously produced biomethane. The target will require 200 large scale agricultural anaerobic digestion plants to be developed within the next decade.

This level of ambition is in recognition of the role that AD biomethane can play in decarbonising the food and drinks industry and the transport sector, whilst also providing a great farm diversification opportunity. It will also help to deliver the EU’s raised ambition for biomethane production of 350TWh by 2030, under REPowerEU, while aligning with the European Green Deal, Farm to Fork strategy.

Ireland is particularly suited to farm-based AD biomethane and bio-fertiliser production because 90% of its land is pasturelands, with a strong dairy industry and underutilised pasturelands of 768’k Ha outside of dairy production, that is available for incremental sustainable forage production and co digestion of animal slurry. Research from the government agricultural research agency, Teagasc, and Devenish Nutrition, shows how a move to mixed species pastures can further the energy value and environmental benefits of the feedstock, with only 2% of land required for sustainable feedstock supply and 768k Ha of permanent pasturelands available for use to grow sustainable agri-feedstock to supply an indigenous and sustainable AD biomethane industry.

Mzmbers of RGFI have an ambition to achieve 2.5TWh of biomethane by 2030 and 9.5TWh by 2050.  This will see 130 anaerobic digestion (AD ) biomethane plants being built in rural Ireland by 2030, creating approximately 3,000 jobs, all of  which requires capital funding of €1bn.

During the Ireland Biomethane Conference the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund announced that it will support the establishment and be an anchor fund in the €200 million dedicated biomethane fund over the next decade to help support the development of a new €2 billion biomethane industry.

ISIF views this investment as part of its role to support climate action and decarbonisation – especially food and agriculture.  The growth and development of the industry will also help indigenous business to scale up to meet the demand and the opportunity. This investment will prove out the market for other financial investors, giving them the confidence to invest. Rabobank have also declared their absolute support for establishing Ireland’s biomethane industry.

An important policy announcement has also been made in recent weeks. The Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, Eamon Ryan, announced a Renewable Heat Obligation Scheme, to be implemented by 2024, something that RGFI has sought from Government as the best means of providing a stable and fair way to bridge the funding gap, and which has paved the way for industry confidence and investment.

The Department of Transport conducted a public consulted on policy for renewable fuels in transport with sustainable feedback recognising the potential for biomethane to address HGV transport decarbonisation.

In 2021 the Irish Government included biomethane for the first time in its Climate Action Plan, as a zero emissions fuel. It is the lowest cost, least disruptive renewable heat technology with the potential to decarbonise some of the hardest to decarbonise sectors of thermal demand, agriculture and transport, which are fundamental to our economy.

Gas Networks Ireland has recently been formally appointed under Statutory Instrument, as the national issuing body for the renewable gas registry. They are also responsible for Ireland’s gas pipeline network – one of the most modern in Europe.

European speakers at the Ireland Biomethane Conference included, Jorge Pinto Antunes, Deputy Head of Cabinet of the Commissioner for Agriculture & Rural Development, European Commission, Harmen Dekker, CEO of the European Biogas Association, Hans van den Bloom, Rabobank, and Milenko Matosic, DENA.

Policy, legislation, finance and consumer demand are now aligning, underpinned by a climate action imperative, as Ireland advances from visioning a biomethane industry to mobilising to deliver it.