A major milestone was today confirmed for the gas grids in Northern Ireland which will see the injection of biomethane, a 100% renewable fuel, into the SGN Natural Gas network this year through a unique collaboration with Granville Eco Park Ltd, part of the Bio Capital Group and based in Dungannon.
Biomethane can be used as a direct replacement for traditional natural gas in the existing gas network infrastructure, which allows for a seamless transition to a net zero carbon energy source for consumers in the west of Northern Ireland. Biomethane is produced from organic waste materials such as agricultural and food waste.
Natural gas is a recommended transition fuel in the Northern Ireland Energy Strategy on the journey to net zero for anyone ‘on-grid’, however today’s announcement will be a welcome boost of confidence for the region’s ability to deliver on net zero plans.
Granville Eco Park has received notable plaudits for its operations since formation – in 2018 it secured a Sustainable Ireland Award for Circular Economy Leadership, and by 2020 it also received the prestigious ‘Best Medium to Large Biogas Plant’ by the Anaerobic Digestion & Bioresources Association. In 2021 the company was awarded a ‘Special Recognition for Climate Action’ in the Belfast Telegraph Business Awards.
David McKee, Chief Technical Officer, Bio Capital Ltd said: “We are thrilled to have the opportunity to collaborate with SGN Natural Gas on the first biomethane to grid project in Northern Ireland, that will tangibly benefit the environment. Our company is passionate about the effective delivery of a circular economy approach designed to eliminate waste in businesses and in society as a whole. Pioneering ideas such as this will play a key role in realising the ambitions of the Energy Strategy for Northern Ireland.”
Research led by Queens University in 2022 found there to be approximately 6000 GWh worth of biomethane in Northern Ireland, which would account for more than 80 per cent of the region’s gas distribution network demand. This means there are considerably greater volumes of the renewable gas available than previously thought. Furthermore, using biomethane produced via anaerobic digestion could reduce CO2 emissions in Northern Ireland by an estimated 845,000 tonnes per year.
David Butler, Director at SGN Natural Gas, outlined the importance of this first step. He commented: “Entering into an agreement with Granville Eco Park is a monumental day for the natural gas networks in Northern Ireland. We anticipate that by late 2023, biomethane will begin to be injected into our infrastructure in Dungannon. This will effectively see a 100% renewable energy source flowing through our systems without the need for a consumer to change a single piece of equipment in their home, resulting in a true example of just transitioning into a net zero future.”
Mr Butler concluded: “This is just the first step for us as a company. We firmly believe that by working together, we can achieve greater success and make tangible progress towards reaching net zero. We look forward to combining our expertise and resources with all the necessary stakeholders to create a sustainable solution that has the potential to provide wide-ranging benefits for consumers in Northern Ireland.”
Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) deputy president John McLenaghan said: “We welcome the news that Northern Ireland’s first biomethane injection into the gas grid will happen this year. The UFU have been lobbying for some time for the introduction of a biomethane injection as it is a locally produced green alternative to imported natural gas. Not only is it more sustainable, it also has the potential to help drive lower heating bills. Biomethane is produced on farm through anaerobic digestion demonstrating one of the many ways farmers are critical to the net zero journey. We look forward to seeing the benefits to the rural and wider economy.”