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Ireland's Ambitious National Biomethane Strategy: Paving the Path to a Greener Future

On 28 May 2024, Ireland took a significant leap towards a sustainable future with the unveiling of its first major policy statement on biomethane.

Announced by the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue, and Minister for Environment, Climate and Communications, Eamon Ryan, the Irish National Biomethane Strategy sets an ambitious target to produce up to 5.7 TWh per annum of biomethane domestically by 2030, aiming to cover 10% of national gas demand and build 140 to 200 new anaerobic digestion (AD) facilities. This new target is more than three times the previous biomethane target in Ireland’s Climate Action Plan 2019 of 1.6 TWh by 2030. It underscores Ireland’s legislated commitments under the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Act 2021.  

The Importance of Biomethane for Ireland 

Biomethane, a renewable energy source produced from organic materials, offers a sustainable way to meet climate targets while providing options for decarbonising agriculture and rural communities. It is also envisioned to secure and diversify gas supply.  

The National Biomethane Strategy will be agri-led and farmer-centric with a focus on the supply of suitable feedstocks, including animal slurries. It will align with the national biodiversity action plan and nitrates action programme, and contribute to the restoration of Ireland’s biodiversity.  

Key Pillars of the National Biomethane Strategy

The Strategy outlines the policy and regulatory measures required to develop a large-scale biomethane industry in Ireland and is structured around five key pillars: 

Source: National Biomethane Strategy (2024). 

  1.  Sustainability: Ensuring environmentally sustainable biomethane production (e.g. Develop a process to certify the end use of non-grid injected biomethane; Assess the development of best practice guidelines on methane leakage during the development of the Biomethane Sustainability Charter). 
  2. Demand for Biomethane: Increasing the demand for biomethane as an energy source to replace fossil gas use (e.g. Engage with the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) sector to ensure knowledge of eligibility of biomethane in the ETS sector; Throughout scheme lifetime, ensure alignment of strategy target (5.7 TWh) with Renewable Heat Obligation (RHO) rate increases). 
  3. Bioeconomy and Circular Economy: Integrating biomethane production into the broader bioeconomy and circular economy (e.g. Assess relevant policy and supports required to ensure the opportunity for biobased fertiliser from digestate is achieved; Examine the potential for a pilot programme to improve the maturity of AD projects, providing links to key research, innovation funding opportunities, sustainability assessments, integration of technologies alongside AD such as biorefining and support cooperative developments). 
  4. Economics of Biomethane: Assessing options for and deploying supporting mechanisms for viable biomethane production (e.g. Open the first competitive Grant Funding Call to contribute up to 1 TWh; Assess the potential for an appropriate smaller-scale finance scheme). 
  5. Enabling Policy Requirements: Establishing necessary policies to remove blockages and promote biomethane production (e.g. Engage with GNI and CRU to review and finalise the biomethane grid connection policy and economic test including the need for financial bonds and costs for grid connections; Develop an online Information Hub to provide AD project development assistance including information on technical, environmental, and financial advisory supports available). 

Each pillar is associated with 25 strategic actions designed to streamline development timelines and improve the economics of biomethane projects. The strategy’s implementation will involve coordinated efforts from various government departments and agencies, overseen by the newly formed Interdepartmental Biomethane Implementation Group, which will report to the Heat and Built Environment Taskforce within the Department for Environment, Climate and Communications. 

The Biomethane Sustainability Charter 

A key component of the strategy is sustainable production, which will be initially supported by developing a Biomethane Sustainability Charter. This Charter, created with input from policy, industry, and societal stakeholders, will promote an agriculture-led biomethane industry while safeguarding water, soil, biodiversity, and ecosystem services.  

Current Biomethane Production in Ireland 

Ireland has two operational biomethane facilities injecting biomethane into the gas grid, producing about 75 GWh per annum, which is equivalent to 0.001% of the current gas demand. Most biomethane produced in Ireland is used in the transport sector under the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation. Additionally, 43 facilities produce 580 GWh of biogas used in combined electricity and heat generation but not upgraded to biomethane. The feedstock for these biogas plants includes landfill waste, municipal solid waste, sewage waste, and animal slurries. 

Looking Ahead 

The National Biomethane Strategy marks a milestone in Ireland’s journey towards a sustainable energy future. The World Biogas Association celebrates this milestone on Ireland’s strategy aligned with the circular economy development, sectoral emissions ceiling for agriculture, decarbonisation of Ireland’s energy mix and contributing to the RePowerEU biomethane production target of 35 bcm (approximately 342 TWh) by 2030.

WBA Chief Executive Charlotte Morton OBE commented:

Ireland’s National Biomethane Strategy marks a significant leap towards a sustainable future. By targeting 5.7 TWh of biomethane annually by 2030, Ireland is demonstrating commendable leadership in renewable energy and sustainable farming. This strategy aligns with global methane abatement goals and showcases biomethane’s potential to revolutionise energy systems, support rural communities and drive economic growth. Moreover, it will contribute to recycling 105 billion tonnes of organic waste generated globally by human activities every year. The World Biogas Association celebrates and wholeheartedly supports this visionary move, which paves the path to a greener future.” 

For more details, you can access the full 54-page document of the National Biomethane Strategy here.

Gain further insights into the Irish biomethane market and the future impact of the Irish National Methane Strategy at the World Biogas Summit where representatives from Carbon AMS will be presenting. Carbon AMS are one of Ireland’s most experienced anaerobic digestion developers and biomethane producers.

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