IrBEA – 2 ‘distinctly different’ scales of biogas production possible

The Irish Bioenergy Association (IrBEA) has outlined that there are two “distinctly different” systems that Ireland could chose to move forward in developing a nationwide infrastructure for biogas production.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, February 2, the IrBEA’s CEO, Sean Finan, outlined: “When IrBEA talks about an Irish biogas industry, we always distinguish between the distinctly different scales that can be developed in Ireland.

“The feedstock and farmer involvement is distinctly different for the two possible scales of industry.”

According to the IrBEA, the two possible scales of development are as follows:
  • Small-scale farm-based plants;
  • Medium to large-scale ‘cooperative model’ plants.

Finan explained: “We believe the role of farmers in small-scale farm-based plants will be to produce biogas from feedstock and waste residues available on the farm.

“The biogas produced would then be used to satisfy an on-farm or nearby energy demand.

“This scale of biogas plant would have to be funded through capital support.

The medium to large-scale biogas plants would be cooperative-based plants which would be built at central locations close to the gas grid when producing biomethane.

With this system, “many farmers within a cooperative would supply feedstock to the plants and they would be run by cooperatives or private business”.

“The farmers would be paid for their feedstock [grass] and receive digestate to spread on their land.”

Finan explained: “Rather than capital support, a biogas support scheme is required for this scale of plant to make up the difference in cost from producing biogas compared to the wholesale price received for gas when supplied to the gas grid.”

In July 2019, the IrBEA and its industry partners Cré – Composting and the Anaerobic Digestion Association of Ireland launched a joint-policy document calling for a biogas support scheme titled ‘Mobilising an Irish Biogas Industry with Policy and Action‘.

The document was developed following consultation with members and stakeholders in the sector.

It sets out a roadmap on how the Government target of 1.6 terawatt-hours (Twh) of biomethane by 2030 can be achieved on a phased basis over the next number of years.

The IrBEA CEO noted: “The document provides the Irish Government with an industry roadmap for the roll-out of a meaningful Irish biogas industry.

This document addresses the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action’s call for a strategy to be developed for anaerobic digestion and also the Government’s Climate Action Plan on biomethane injection.

“The document articulates a vision from the industry and outlines the key principles which will need to be followed for the growth and development of a successful Irish biogas industry.”

The IrBEA’s vision is for the Irish biogas industry to be developed on a phased basis to achieve the Government Climate Action Plan (CAP) target of 1.6Twh (200MW) of biomethane injection by 2030 or before.

Concluding, Finan noted: “A biogas support scheme will be required to bridge the cost gap between the current cost of production of biogas and current sale price of fossil gas.”