‘Northern Ireland has potential to become a world leader in biomethane’

The Ulster Farmers’ Union has met with Phoenix Natural Gas as part of on-going discussions to consider the potential for biomethane injection in Northern Ireland.

By Joanne Knox
Wednesday, 15th December 2021, 5:03 pm
Updated Wednesday, 15th December 2021, 5:03 pm

This is in relation to the long-awaited energy strategy and energy transition.

Speaking after the meeting, rural enterprise chair, John Watt, stated: “In NI, we’ve a modern natural gas network which is the perfect medium for transporting biomethane.

“The older gas network in Great Britain has steel pipes but, here, the pipes are plastic.

“This is a crucial point as there is no need for the significant infrastructure commitments which are envisaged for other technologies in the energy transition mix.

“Biomethane presents a cost-effective solution in terms of infrastructure.”

Biomethane - or renewable natural gas - is produced through the recycling of organic waste via technology, such as anaerobic digestion.

It acts as a direct substitute for conventional natural gas and, when injected into the gas network, provides a potential heating source which ticks many boxes.

Biomethane can be produced at scale and can be distributed, giving it an edge over hydrogen in the short term.

“NI has the potential to become a world leader in biomethane,” Mr Watt continued.

“We have a ready supply of the prime ingredient - 10 million tonnes of cattle slurry produced annually in NI.

“Our agriculture base can support the growth of the biogas sector as the primary providers of biomethane.

DAERA have stated that NI could produce 130-580 million cubic metres of biomethane per year and generate up to 2,000 GWh of power or heat annually.

“With two competing climate change bills going through the NI Assembly legislative process, there is a need to speed up the much-needed legislative and regulatory steps to facilitate biomethane injection into the gas network.

“There is a lot of work to do in terms of the technical, regulatory and commercial issues that need to be overcome before this is viable, but when pitched alongside ‘green hydrogen’, biomethane presents locally-sourced carbon negative alternative to fossil fuel natural gas,” Mr Watt ended.