Climate report 'overstating' cost of agri-biomethane

Anaerobic digester
Anaerobic digester
Declan O'Brien

Declan O'Brien

The cost of agri-biomethane has been massively overstated in the Government's recent Climate Action Plan, the industry body Renewable Gas Forum Ireland (RGFI) has claimed.

RGFI maintained that the costing of €377/t of CO2 equivalent (CO2eq)cited in the Climate Action Report was not representative of the agri-biomethane sector as a whole, and that costs as low as €82/tCO2eq were possible from the technology.

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PJ McCarthy of RGFI claimed the high costing placed on agri-biomethane in the Climate Action Report meant that anaerobic digestion was effectively being sidelined as a technology by the Government in its efforts to decarbonise the Irish economy.

However, a spokesman for the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment (DCCAE) insisted that anaerobic digestion was being promoted by the Government, but he did not address the issue of the costing included in the Climate Action Report.

Mr McCarthy challenged both the methodology and the eventual costings regarding agri-biomethane which were included in the Climate Action Report.

He maintained that €377/t CO2eq costing for agri-biomethane was an "outlier scenario" based on the harvesting of seaweed.

Furthermore, the RGFI official insisted that if the top three cost scenarios were excluded for agri-biomethane - as is the accepted methodology - then the costings for anaerobic digestion would be in the €82-177/t CO2eq range.

Mr McCarthy said that biomethane exceeds the greenhouse gas (GHG) savings of all other renewable heat technologies at a costing range of €82-177/t CO2eq.

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Excess slurry

"Agriculture-sourced biomethane provides significantly better and wider economic and environmental benefits than any other of the renewable heat technologies," he claimed.

Mr McCarthy pointed out that anaerobic digestion units provided real opportunities for farmers to diversify into growing feed-in crops such as silage for the sector, as well as offering an outlet for excess slurry.

In addition, he said the development of the biomethane sector meant businesses that already used gas were spared the additional cost of installing new solid fuel burners in order to convert to green energy. Pointing out that the agrifood, biopharma and beverages sectors are the largest consumers of gas in the economy and have mandatory targets to be carbon neutral by 2030 in some cases, Mr McCarthy claimed that these industries were being placed in an "uncompetitive position" by being denied access to biomethane.

In response, a spokesman for DCCAE said the Government's Climate Action Plan recognises a range of potential bioenergy supply opportunities that could be further developed in Ireland, including biomass mobilisation and biogas/biomethane supplied from anaerobic digestion.

"The plan commits to adopting a whole-of-government approach to reviewing the potential of anaerobic digestion to supply biogas and biomethane, including opportunities in indigenous grass silage and slurry, and to setting a target for the level of energy to be supplied by indigenous biomethane injection in 2030, taking account of the domestic supplies of sustainable feedstock and how the supports necessary to reach such a target could be funded," the spokesman said.

"The plan also recognises that realising these opportunities will require sustained attention over the period ahead," he added.

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