Companies collaborate to eliminate use of fossil fuels

Pictured at Tobermore are (from left) Dr Paul Madden (Centre for Competitiveness), Graham Maze (managing director Road Safety Contracts), Dr James Young, Martin Doherty (Centre for Advanced Sustainable Energy), David Henderson (managing director Tobermore), Allistair Wilkinson (CemCor Ltd.), Ed Wright (Dale Farm) and Chloe Skillen (Dale Farm)

FOUR Mid-Ulster companies have formed a collaborative cluster with the aid of Queen's University Belfast and facilitated by Centre for Competitiveness/Smart Grid Ireland in a bid to eliminate use of fossil fuels.

The purpose of this pilot project is to unleash the net-zero innovation potential of their businesses and achieve their environmental, social and governance objectives.

The partnership has been formed between Tobermore Concrete, CemCor, Dale Farm and RSC Group.

Their novel approach was enabled by the Centre for Advanced Sustainable Energy (CASE) at QUB, which indicated that farming wastes could decarbonise the existing gas grid, with profound repercussions for Northern Ireland’s capacity to reach net zero.

Research led by Prof David Rooney at Queen’s determined that transforming farm livestock manure and grass silage into biomethane could help to meet a significant percentage of the north’s energy demand.

For the four companies involved, the proposed innovative “waste-to-watts” approach has the potential to promote the adoption of low-carbon farming practices, the development of low-carbon agri- food products, decarbonised fuel for transport vehicles, and decarbonised construction products.

And the vision of the four participating companies is ultimately to establish a full-scale plant that will produce enough biomethane, not just for their own use, but also for injection into the north's gas grid.

CASE director Martin Doherty said: “This project is hugely exciting, with the prospect of being enormously significant in developing security of energy supply, slashing Northern Ireland’s carbon footprint, and helping to significantly boost the circular economy.

“Put simply, there is no reason, beyond habit and history, for Northern Ireland to need to import any fossil fuels whatsoever.

“This project in particular has the potential to be a massive game changer. Indeed it could, if managed and delivered properly, have the potential to significantly reduce the need for fossil fuels and hasten in an era of net zero.

“It’s an example of what Northern Ireland companies can do when given the opportunity, and also of how CASE can positively influence and help to shape our renewable energy future.”

Dr Paul Madden (CforC) describe the project as “an excellent example of local place-based innovation supporting COP27 and the UN Sustainable Development Goals”.

Reflecting on the work carried out by QUB, Dr James Young said: “The opportunity for these Mid Ulster companies to decarbonise is immense by focusing on the processing of agricultural manures to recover energy and nutrients such as phosphate to provide decarbonised fuel, goods and services.”