Native biomethane is an “untapped resource that can reduce emissions in transport by one million tonnes, while advancing emissions reductions in agriculture and land use,” according to a report from the Irish Bioenergy Association (IRBEA).
And the Irish agricultural industry provides a solid platform on which to build an indigenous biomethane industry, according to the report.
Recently released, the report focuses on the transport industry, its environmental impact and the role of biofuels in decarbonizing the industry and helping Ireland meet its climate targets.
It describes how a combination of policy interventions and measures – electrification, an increased blend of biofuels, biomethane and driver efficiency – can help Ireland reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 51% by 2030.
While focusing on transport, the report also refers to the impact on rural life and agriculture that a sustainable bioenergy industry can have.
Transport is the largest source of energy-related emissions in Ireland, with forecasts for continued increases in distances traveled and goods transported by 2030.
Transportation represents 20% of our overall GHGs, but thanks to a combination of electric vehicles; hydrotreated vegetable oils (HVO) – these dilute the carbon in fossil fuels; native biomethane; and biofuel blending rates, by 2030 this percentage can be significantly reduced.
According to the report, targeting 5 TWh of indigenous biomethane production for use in heavy transport would avoid around 1 million tonnes of carbon.
The biomethane industry needed to achieve this goal would contribute to rural employment and provide options for farming families to diversify the incomes of those in low-income sectors, according to the report.
In addition, policies that encourage the sustainable production of biomethane with the movement of livestock would have limited impact in terms of land use change.
The role of agriculture
The report says that increasing bioenergy production presents risks that must be managed. To ensure its sustainability, it is essential to maintain carbon cycles, protect biodiversity and minimize indirect land use changes.
“In this regard, Ireland should play to its strength as a country with an ideal active ecosystem for growing grass and an agricultural industry that has waste that needs to be dealt with.”
This provides a solid starting platform for an indigenous biomethane industry in Ireland, according to the report.
The report continued:
‘This would provide benefits to Irish farmers and their [biomethane] production and distribution can help decarbonize irish agriculture.
However, the report points out that a reduction in GHGs from sustainable bioenergy produced on Irish farms is attributed to the end-use sector where the fuel is used, which may discourage the agricultural sector, and this should be addressed.
He added :
“Waste and unused or underused agricultural and grassland waste and residues can be mobilized to generate additional income for farming families, especially in less advantaged areas.
“The creation of a market for grass / silage / hay / straw in Ireland would emerge, in the same way as the deployment of large ethanol plants stabilized the corn market across Europe, with major benefits for the farming communities there. ”