Monday 14 October 2019

Renewable gas has a "huge" part to play in Ireland, according to Denis O'Sullivan, managing director of Gas Networks Ireland.

In person: Denis O’Sullivan

Future-focused: Gas Networks Ireland MD Denis O’Sullivan is not fazed by the Brexit process
Future-focused: Gas Networks Ireland MD Denis O’Sullivan is not fazed by the Brexit process
Ellie Donnelly

Ellie Donnelly

Renewable gas has a "huge" part to play in Ireland, according to Denis O'Sullivan, managing director of Gas Networks Ireland.

His comments come as the Government aims to get 70pc of its electricity from renewable energy sources by 2030.

He said: "We have set our own ambition to have 20pc renewable gas on our own network by 2030. To put that into context, Germany would already have that volume of renewable gas on its network."

He points to Ireland's agricultural sector, our ability to grow grass, and the size of our national herd.

"Ireland has a number of feed stock to produce that natural gas. The agri-sector is the place to go for volume," according to the Cork native.

Indeed, Mitchelstown in Cork is one of the places that Gas Networks has previously selected for its Graze project, where anaerobic digesters will be placed on farms in the area to convert animal waste, slurry and grass into renewable gas.

"A lot of farmers already have similar capacity for grass and slurry storage. Not every farmer will have an anaerobic digester plant, but there is no reason why every farmer can't grow additional grass if he is going to get paid for it," he said.

Moving to the matter of the day - Vision 2050 - O'Sullivan believes the document incorporates what the semi-State body is doing today.

The main aim of Gas Networks Ireland is for a zero-carbon gas network by 2050, and to support emission reductions across every sector of the Irish economy at as low a cost as possible.

"Everything in the document is already under way, [for instance] compressed natural gas in transport - we have already launched a number of stations for buses and trucks. We want to roll out up to 172 of those stations," O'Sullivan said. He added that Gas Networks Ireland can roll out the infrastructure quickly.

However, this has to be balanced against the update of vehicles to be able to run on gas.

"But we see with electric vehicles, there is demand there [for more environmentally friendly] vehicles," he said.

Gas Networks Ireland is also using carbon capture and storage to abate emissions for the remaining natural gas in use.

Currently, gas being used in Ireland comes from three locations: the Kinsale and Corrib gas fields and the interconnector.

As Corrib and Kinsale decline, the interconnector, along with renewable sources of energy, will help to pick up the shortfall.

However, O'Sullivan is not concerned about Brexit or geopolitical tensions in Europe representing a threat to the security of the supply.

"We spent a lot of time on this, and have been working with the Department of Energy to ensure that in any scenario post-Brexit, we have a secure supply of energy," he said.

"We have been working with shippers in Ireland and the UK, and our counterpart in the UK, National Grid, who operates the transmission system we are connected to there.

"In terms of gas supply coming into the UK, there is more than enough from Europe."

He added that Gas Networks Ireland has already got confirmation from the UK, the Irish authorities and Brussels that the trading platform which is operated to trade gas through the networks will continue to operate as it is.

"When you park all of that and think of the practicalities, our network starts in the middle of Scotland, we supply a town in Scotland, the Isle of Man and Northern Ireland.

"In a way, it would be illogical for the UK to say they would interrupt the gas supply."

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