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Ramping Up Biogas – A Climate Solution for Northern Ireland

DAERA recently launched a public consultation to gather views on proposed emissions targets for 2030 and 2040 as well as proposed carbon budgets for Northern Ireland. The consultation aims to inform Northern Ireland’s approach to reaching net zero emissions by 2050. ADBA policy team is currently writing the response to the consultation, emphasising the potential of the AD sector to help Northern Ireland reach Net Zero.

Northern Ireland has set ambitious targets to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Decarbonising electricity, heating, transportation and agriculture will require deploying all available low-carbon solutions at scale. One technology that can make substantial contributions across multiple sectors is anaerobic digestion or AD.

Ahead of the ADBA Northern Ireland National Conference, today we are taking a look at how boosting biogas production through AD can help Northern Ireland meet its climate goals. This topic will be discussed in detail during the conference on 7th September in Belfast.

The power of biogas

AD is a natural process where microbes break down organic material like food waste, crops and manures in an oxygen-free environment to produce biogas and nutrient-rich digestate. This biogas is a renewable energy source that can displace fossil natural gas across a range of applications:

  • Biogas can generate electricity via combustion in CHP units.
  • Upgrading biogas to biomethane enables injection into the gas grid to replace natural gas for residential and commercial heating.
  • Biomethane can also replace diesel and CNG as a transport fuel for buses, trucks, trains and more.
  • Digestate from AD is an excellent organic fertiliser that can improve soil health and crop yields.
  • Carbon present in the organic matter is captured during AD, resulting in negative emissions when used or permanently sequestered.

Climate action with AD

Significantly scaling up AD capacity will allow Northern Ireland to:

  • Divert food waste, agricultural residues and other organics from landfills to reduce methane emissions.
  • Enable climate-friendly livestock rearing integrated with manure AD.
  • Produce renewable gas to reduce the carbon intensity of electricity and heat.
  • Decarbonise heavy transport like buses, trucks and rail.
  • Permanently remove carbon through CO2 utilisation products or geological storage.
  • Improve energy security through local biomethane production.

The Path Ahead

Realising AD’s immense potential requires strategic government support through incentives like capital grants for projects and subsidies for CO2 transport and storage, and more.

Streamlined planning processes will also enable the timely development of new AD facilities. Robust food waste separation mandates are key to ensuring consistent feedstock availability.

By implementing these targeted measures, Northern Ireland can tap into its abundant organic resources to ramp up renewable biogas production and make swift progress towards its net zero and clean energy goals. The climate clock is ticking, and biogas offers a shovel-ready solution. It’s time to start digging in.

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