Turning livestock manure and grass silage into biomethane could help to meet Northern Ireland's demand for energy as well as significantly it's carbon footprint, researchers at Queen’s University Belfast have found.

The findings come from a study which was led by experts at the university and the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI), that evaluated the potential of biomethane for the decarbonisation of the gas grid.

One of the key findings was that Northern Ireland has significantly greater volumes of the renewable gas available than previously thought.

In total, there is estimated to be over 6,000 GWh worth, which is more than 80% of Northern Ireland’s Gas Distribution Network demand.

Findings from the study also suggest that using biomethane that is produced through anaerobic digestion of livestock manure and under utilized grass silage, could lead to a significant greenhouse gas emission reduction of about 845,000t of CO2 in Northern Ireland.

This would equate to roughly the same amount of carbon dioxide that would be released in driving a family diesel car around the globe 170,000 times.

In addition to this, the researchers believe that displacing a large proportion of the current gas demand with this approach would help to deal with other problematic emissions that impact water quality.

The findings of the study were presented by Prof. David Rooney, Dean of Internationalisation and Reputation at the university, during a launch event at the Stormont Hotel in Belfast.

When revealing the findings, Rooney commented that tackling the issue or rising fuel costs has led to an increased interest in regionally generated renewable gas and decarbonising has use has never been so important.

"We [Northern Ireland] are a country that has high agricultural intensity and there is huge scope to work closely with the sector to capture problematic emissions and redirect them to where they have greater value to the regional economy."

Speaking about the findings, Iain Hoy, energy transition manager with Phoenix Natural Gas explained that 6,000 GWh of biomethane has the potential to heat over half a million homes every year, in a sustainable fashion.

"Biomethane’s ability to offer multiple benefits to many different sectors makes it extremely valuable and alongside hydrogen it will perform a critical role in the NI Gas Network’s Pathway to Net-Zero," Hoy concluded.