Five gas network operators in Northern Ireland have collaborated with two Stormont ministers on this initiative. [Image: Phoenix Energy, Firmus Energy]

By Shardul Sharma

Five gas network operators in Northern Ireland—Phoenix Energy, Firmus Energy, Evolve, GNI (UK), and Mutual Energy—have collaborated with two Stormont ministers to support the production of biomethane, Phoenix and Firmus announced on March 21.

The operators, along with minister for agriculture, environment, and rural affairs Andrew Muir and economy minister Conor Murphy, convened at Stormont to launch a request for information aimed at bolstering the production of biomethane utilising organic and agricultural waste streams.

Biomethane, already widely used as a carbon-neutral alternative to natural gas across Europe, is produced from sustainable feedstock such as underutilised silage, slurry, and food waste. Its integration into Northern Ireland’s modern gas network infrastructure can aid local emission reduction targets by displacing fossil fuels, the companies said.

Last year, an anaerobic digestion plant at the Granville EcoPark near Dungannon achieved a milestone by becoming the first site on the island of Ireland to directly inject biomethane into the gas network. The sector is now preparing to upscale the volumes of biomethane injected into the local gas network, following a 2022 study by Queen’s University Belfast, which highlighted the sufficient availability of feedstock in Northern Ireland to replace large volumes of the existing gas network demand.

Gas network operators have called on potential biomethane producers and current biogas producers considering upgrading and repurposing their plants to produce and inject biomethane to respond to this request for information. The operators have identified this information request as a key facilitator in preparing their plans to ensure the network can accommodate as much biomethane as possible.