March 28th 2017 saw farmers, technology providers, engineers, regulators and academics come together at the Teagasc Grange Research Centre to discuss the barriers to, and potential of, an on-farm biogas industry in Ireland.
The event was convened as part of the Green Farm project, a Science Foundation Ireland-funded collaboration between NUI Galway, Teagasc and Waterford Institute of Technology. The project, led by Prof. Xinmin Zhan of NUI Galway, in collaboration with Dr Peadar Lawlor (Teagasc) and Dr Gillian Gardiner (WIT), is investigating the technical and economic viability of on-farm anaerobic digestion of pig manure and food waste.
The invited speakers included Dr. Denis Dineen of the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, Justin Byrne from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, John Toner of WIS Group, Conor McEntegart and Dr. James Brown of Gas Networks Ireland. The topics covered included; an overview of the current “state of play” in Ireland in terms of the contribution that the biogas industry makes to Ireland’s fuel mix, and the potential role it may play in future in meeting targets on renewable heat, transport and electricity; the animal by-product (ABP) regulations which biogas plants in Ireland must abide by, as well as the common pitfalls experienced by developers applying for ABP licences; technology solutions that can be used in biogas plant development; and problems in digester operation due to poor design and specification; the upgrading of farm-generated biogas and injection of this biomethane into the natural gas grid.
Two PhD researchers from the Green Farm project, Conor Dennehy and Yan Jiang, also presented results from their work on economic modelling of on-farm biogas plant viability, and on the development of dry anaerobic digestion technology.
The 80 plus attendees were also led in a tour of the recently constructed 0.15 MW biogas plant located on-site at Grange by JJ. Lenehan of Teagasc. The digester is expected to be in operation later this year and will convert a combination of grass silage and cattle manure into electricity, which will be sold to the grid, and heat which will be utilised by the buildings on the Grange campus.
The workshop concluded with a lively panel discussion which yielded great insights into the impact that the introduction of a renewable heat tariff would have on the industry, the need to look critically at the potential of food waste as a substrate, and the crucial role access to finance has to play in the development of a biogas industry. The success of this “sold out” event highlights the heightened interest there is in developing the biogas industry in Ireland. The conference materials and key takeaways from the panel discussion are freely available from Teagasc. For further information about the Green Farm project, contact Conor Dennehy.