Regional integration of biogas – developing an intersectoral research action plan for Northern Ireland

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


Bioenergy is a key component of the European Union long term energy strategy across all sectors, with a target contribution of up to 14% of the energy mix by 2020. It is estimated that there is the potential for 1TWh of primary energy from biogas per million persons in Europe, derived from agricultural by-products and waste. With an agricultural sector that accounts for 75% of land area and a large number of advanced engineering firms, Northern Ireland is a region with considerable potential for an integrated biogas industry. Northern Ireland is also heavily reliant on imported fossil fuels. Despite this, the industry is underdeveloped and there is a need for a collaborative approach from research, business and policy-makers across all sectors to optimise Northern Ireland’s abundant natural resources. ‘Developing Opportunities in Bio-Energy’ (i.e. Do Bioenergy) is a recently completed project that involved both academic and specialist industrial partners. The aim was to develop a biogas research action plan for 2020 to define priorities for intersectoral regional development, co-operation and knowledge transfer in the field of production and use of biogas. Consultations were held with regional stakeholders and working groups were established to compile supporting data, decide key objectives and implementation activities. Within the context of this study it was found that biogas from feedstocks including grass, agricultural slurry, household and industrial waste have the potential to contribute from 2.5% to 11% of Northern Ireland’s total energy consumption. The economics of on-farm production were assessed, along with potential markets and alternative uses for biogas in sectors such as transport, heat and electricity. Arising from this baseline data, a Do Bioenergy was developed. The plan sets out a strategic research agenda, and details priorities and targets for 2020. The challenge for Northern Ireland is how best to utilise the biogas – as electricity, heat or vehicle fuel and in what proportions. The research areas identified were: development of small scale solutions for biogas production and use; solutions for improved nutrient management; knowledge supporting and developing the integration of biogas into the rural economy; and future crops and bio-based products. The human resources and costs for the implementation were estimated as 80 person-years and £25 million respectively. It is also clear that the development of a robust bio-gas sector requires some reform of the regulatory regime, including a planning policy framework and a need to address social acceptance issues. The Action Plan was developed from a regional perspective but the results may be applicable to other regions in Europe and elsewhere. This paper presents the methodology, results and analysis, and discussion and key findings of the Do Bioenergy report for Northern Ireland.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2015
Event10th Conference on Sustainable Development of Energy, Water and Environmental Systems (SDEWES2015) - Dubrovnik, Croatia
Duration: 27 Sep 201502 Oct 2015


Conference10th Conference on Sustainable Development of Energy, Water and Environmental Systems (SDEWES2015)


Dive into the research topics of 'Regional integration of biogas – developing an intersectoral research action plan for Northern Ireland'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this