Business

It's a gas as biomethane is injected into local network

Group of officials pictured at the first ever direct-to-grid injection on the island of Ireland of biomethane, a fully renewable energy source, which took place at Co Tyrone in the Evolve network, in what is seen as a landmark moment for the decarbonisation of energy
Group of officials pictured at the first ever direct-to-grid injection on the island of Ireland of biomethane, a fully renewable energy source, which took place at Co Tyrone in the Evolve network, in what is seen as a landmark moment for the decarbonisation of energy

A UNIQUE project in Co Tyrone which has created a greener gas made from agricultural and food waste could ultimately lead to lower energy costs for homes and businesses across Northern Ireland.

Bio Capital, which operates the Granville Eco Park in Dungannon, has started injecting renewable biomethane into the local gas network.

Evolve, the distribution network operator for the west of Northern Ireland, is spearheading the transformative journey for the energy industry.

It comes after Bio installed a £1.2 million system at its existing anaerobic digestion plant which allows the biomethane to be blended into the gas network without the need for any changes in transmission and distribution infrastructure or end-user equipment.

Previously Granville Eco Park use pressurised trailers to transport biomethane to numerous heat and power units across the north.

But in a first for the region, the biomethane - which is similar to natural gas - can now be directly injected into the grid and has the capability to export enough gas to decarbonise the region’s entire annual gas consumption.

Bio Capital’s chief technical officer Dr David McKee said: “This is the first major step in increasing the amount of power, heat and transport that can be fuelled by renewable gas.

“We have a wealth of experience in this area and a number of our other UK facilities are already injecting biomethane into the gas network.

“But this is a first for Northern Ireland, where we now begin our journey towards a sustainable drive for indigenous renewable gas.”

Granville has been generating renewable gas since 2014. Until now Bio Capital (www.bio-capital.co.uk) has been using the gas to generate electricity on site, fuelling gas powered HGVs and transporting biomethane to customers for heat and power by road in pressurised containers.

“But having this gas to grid connection now offers us a further route to market,” Dr McKee added.

“Replacing imported fossil fuels with a renewable low carbon alternative will go a significant way towards helping Northern Ireland exceed targets set within the Energy Strategy and Climate Change Act.”

David Butler, director at Evolve, said: “This is a monumental day for both the region and Evolve as a business. As we move forward, we emphasise the critical importance of strategic collaboration across all facets of the energy industry.

"A just transition demands cooperation, partnership, and coordinated efforts from government bodies, businesses, researchers, customers and communities.

"By uniting our collective expertise and resources, we can navigate the complex challenges ahead, ensuring that no one is left behind in the pursuit of a sustainable and equitable future.

"This is not a token connection; it is just the start of a journey to fully decarbonise our entire network by 2030.”

Bio Capital produces biomethane by recycling biodegradable waste (packaged and unpackaged) from local Councils, the hospitality sector and food and drink processors, as well as using it as a feedstock for anaerobic digestion.

According to the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (Daera), agriculture remains the north's biggest emitter of greenhouse gas, and if its manure surplus (slurry) can be turned into green fuel via this current system. it will be an environmental boost to the region and offer a greater security of supply.

Bio Capital's anaerobic digestion process produces a nutrient rich biofertiliser which is currently used to fertilise local farmland and in turn reduces farmers’ reliance on expensive and carbon intensive imported artificial fertiliser.

Co2 is then separated from biogas when it is being upgraded to biomethane and Bio Capital is exploring opportunities to export biofertiliser and supply renewable Co2 to food and drink customers which would further bolster the circular economy.