Recent developments in Irish biomethane
On 6 September 2023, Irish fuel supplier Flogas Enterprise announced an agreement to supply biomethane to Circle K fuelling stations. On the heels of this announcement was the launch of the Biomethane Energy report, by Gas Networks Ireland on 7 September 2023.
The agreement means BioCNG will be available at select Circle K fuelling stations. This will be of interest to organisations with heavy vehicle fleets looking to green their fuel supply. The contract is a milestone for Ireland, with Circle K being the first public company to offer BioCNG.
Brian Connolly, senior fuels manager at Circle K Ireland noted offering biomethane at their pumps was a logical development following the introduction of CNG last year: “Working with Flogas Enterprise, we began making a low carbon fuel alternative for commercial vehicles available with the introduction of compressed natural gas in 2022. While CNG can reduce a HGV’s emissions by up to 22%, BioCNG can reduce a HGV’s emissions by almost 100%”.
Flogas will supply the biomethane from a plant in Nurney, County Kildare, owned by Green Generation. Flogas have also supplied biomethane to other companies, including Tesco and Diageo in the food and beverage sector.
The Irish RTFO (Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation)
Like the UK Ireland also has an RTFO, administered by NORA (National Oil Reserves Agency), which obligates fuel suppliers to ensure a share of their offerings is represented by renewable fuels.
Before 2022, it was known as the Biofuel Obligation Scheme (BOS), although the RTFO has greater alignment with the RED (EU’s Renewable Energy Directive) II and an obligation for advanced biofuels, which is the target market for biomethane.
In 2022, biomethane accounted for approximately 1.5% (by energy content) of all biofuels or around 40.4 GWh. The breakdown by feedstock of this transport biomethane is given below.
The buy-out for the advanced biofuel obligation, which places a price cap on biomethane for transport purposes was 0.08 EUR/MJ, or 290 EUR/MWh.
Flogas are an obligated party under the RTFO; the deal with Circle K suggests that they can supply additional biomethane over their obligated amounts should the demand from Circle K customers dictate.
The biomethane energy report
On 7 September 2023, Gas Networks Ireland (GNI) published their Biomethane Energy Report. While the nation currently has low levels of production, an annual production potential of 14.8 TWh was identified, a quarter of the current domestic natural gas demand.
The 2030 production target is a more modest 5.7 TWh, although this is considered ambitious given current production (2022) amounts to just over 40 GWh. The Danish biomethane industry was put forward as an aspiration, which has a high share of biomethane in the grid, while having comparable-sized agricultural sectors, the main provider of feedstock for biomethane.
While acknowledging the moves to reduce natural gas consumption via electrification of transport and heat, and a move away from gas-fired generation to wind and solar, biomethane is seen as a viable long-term solution for:
- Heavy vehicle transportation
- Industrial heat
- Dispatchable synchronous power generation
Arguably the most progress is being made on the transportation front, as evidenced by the Flogas Enterprise deal, and the established NORA RTFO scheme. Biomethane also is compatible with the expansion of CNG refuelling stations in Ireland, as mentioned in the Report.
GNI was appointed the national issuing body for GOs in July 2022, although establishing a working registry will take additional time, in addition to arrangements to allow cross-border trading. The potential application of GOs for reducing obligations in the ETS is being discussed, as is a subsidy program for biomethane producers (with GOs expected to result from subsidised injected biomethane).