Grass-based agriculture makes Ireland a ‘potential leader’ in renewable gas production

Ireland has the “potential to be a leader in renewable gas production, primarily due to our grass-based agriculture” according to the Renewable Gas Forum of Ireland (RGFI).

The RGFI said that, in particular, production of gas through anaerobic digestion is “not only environmentally sustainable, but reduces greenhouse gasses and improves water quality, air quality and enhances biodiversity through soil regeneration”.

Planning should apply best practice

Anaerobic digestion is the process by which organic waste, such as food waste, is converted into methane-rich biogas to be used to generate electricity.

As Ireland expands and improves its production and use of renewable energy, there is still some uncertainty amongst people in regards to some forms of production.

For anaerobic digestion, CEO of RGFI PJ McCarthy said that developers applying best practice throughout the planning process for digestor plants helps to show people the benefits.

“Through the forum we advocate thorough and robust Environmental Impact Assessments and Natura Impact Assessments for developers seeking planning consents,” he explained.

The planning process for an anaerobic digestor biomethane plant should apply best practice in carrying out appropriate assessments, as well as pre-planning consultations with all local stakeholders to ensure fully transparency and a consultative approach to any proposed plant development and operational phase.

The RGFI added that anaerobic digestion biomethane is “globally accepted for its sustainability attributes” and its inclusion in agricultural policy is vital for Ireland.

‘Potential to be a leader’

McCarthy continued: “Ireland has the potential to be a leader in renewable gas [biomethane] production, primarily due to our grass-based agriculture.

With its unique environmental and circular economy attributes, renewable gas produced by this process represents a significant opportunity for the Irish government to move in line with the European Commission’s Green Deal strategy and embrace a low-carbon future.

The RGFI emphasised that anaerobic digestion has various benefits for agriculture in Ireland.

“Across Europe, renewable gas production is seen as an essential part of a greener future for agriculture, food production, energy production and consumption, sustainability in terms of the environment, climate action and also the rural economy,” McCarthy explained.

“Anaerobic digestor plants can create an additional income for farmers, as well as creating a new market for organic wastes and slurries.”