Tuesday 18 June 2019

Pure gas - north Cork scheme to create clean energy from slurry

The scheme will harvest ‘natural gas’ from farm slurry
The scheme will harvest ‘natural gas’ from farm slurry

Bill Browne

Mitchelstown has been chosen as the location for an innovative new scheme that will have the capacity to slurry and household waste into enough natural gas to power 56,000 homes, supplying 8% of Ireland's residential gas demand.

Gas Networks Ireland (GNI) has confirmed the north Cork town has been selected as one of the proving grounds for its GRAZE project, which has been short-listed for an €8 million grant under the State funded Climate Action Fund. 

The Mitchelstown element of GRAZE project, which will cost €29 million to develop, will involve the placement of a series of anaerobic digesters on farms in the area that will convert animal waste, slurry, municipal waste and grass into renewable gas. 

The gas, which is identical in composition to natural gas, will then be fed into the national grid through a specially constructed plant near the town, one of 17 such plants planned across the country. The operating model will be similar to that currently used for milk collection by dairy co-ops, with the gas being transported in purpose built tankers to the plant.

Mitchelstown has been selected as the location for the this phase of the overall project due to the large number of cattle in the surrounding area and its close proximity to Ireland's biggest gas pipeline. 

The use of animal waste in particular will have the additional benefit of reducing harmful emissions from Ireland's rapidly expanding beef and diary industries. 

In addition the GRAZE project will fund the development of two Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) stations, part of a network of 70 similar facilities planned for around the country that will facilitate HGV and bus operators from using diesel to renewable gas in their vehicles. 

This will help to substantially reduce transport emissions, with gas generating a 99% reduction in particulate matter when compared to diesel. 

It is estimated that at maximum capacity the Mitchelstown operation alone will reduce Ireland's annual harmful CO2 emissions by up to 170,000 tonnes per annum, 27,000 tonnes of which will be made up from agricultural emissions. 

According to the European Commission, Ireland has the highest potential for biogas production per capita within the EU by 2030.  Gas Networks Ireland said the GRAZE project would play a key role in helping to achieve the company's target of 20% of Ireland's total gas supply by 2030 and 50% by 2050. 

Furthermore, estimated that renewable gas has the potential to support the creation of some 6,500 jobs across rural Ireland. 

The company's managing director, Denis O'Sullivan, said the GRAZE project confirmed the Government's support for GNI's long-term vision for how Ireland's €2.6 billion gas network can play a key role in 'de-carbonising' Ireland's energy, transport and agriculture sectors. 

"We are helping to deliver a cleaner energy supply through innovation in key areas such a renewable gas," said Mr O'Sullivan. 

"Combining the strength of our existing network, with a commitment to  innovation will deliver the most cost-effective and secure solution to our energy challenges, allowing our economy to prosper into the future. This project is another important step forward in our renewable gas strategy," he added.