The City of Cork in Ireland’s south moved to a brighter shade of green last week with the first passenger-trial of a biomethane-powered bus. With zero carbon emissions, the bus is considered a viable alternative for Ireland’s public bus fleet.
The bus has been part of national trials looking at green bus performance, air quality impacts and CO2 emissions, among other criteria. Biomethane is a clean, renewable gas that is 98% methane. Also known as ‘green gas’, it can be used interchangeably with conventional fossil-fuel natural gas, meaning it can be added to the existing gas grid. The majority of European capital cities now run their buses on gas, resulting in lower carbon emissions and better air quality in cities.
“Energy Cork has been advocating the benefits of adopting compressed natural gas and biomethane for our public bus fleet in Cork for a number of years, so we are delighted to be making a journey today on Ireland’s first zero carbon emissions bus,” said Michelle O’Sullivan, Energy Cork spokesperson and Cork Chamber Public Affairs Senior Executive.
“We have the opportunity now to shape how we grow and be proactive in adopting technologies that work for the City and which protect our environment and air quality. This technology is tried and tested with examples of biomethane bus fleets in Stockholm, Lille and Nottingham to name just a few cities. We are very keen to see this technology supported by the National Transport Authority and hope to see these buses rolled out in Cork in the not too distant future,” O’Sullivan added.
Decision time for Irish bus fleets
Faced with EU deadlines to reduce harmful greenhouse gases, and following Budget 2018, Ireland will no longer be able to purchase diesel buses for public transport as of 1st July 2019. The Department of Transport, Tourism & Sport has been carrying out technology trials of hybrid diesel, fully electric, electric hybrid, compressed natural gas (CNG) and biomethane powered buses in Cork and Dublin in recent months to review performance. The green buses have been travelling key routes in the urban bus transport network, but have been weighted rather than carrying passengers so today represents a landmark in Ireland’s move to a greener public transport system.
Dónal Kissane, Commercial Manager, Gas Networks Ireland said, “Gas Networks Ireland is delighted to welcome members of Cork Chamber, Energy Cork and MaREI/UCC to take part in Ireland’s first carbon neutral bus journey. Unlike the diesel buses currently in operation, this bus runs on renewable gas and its journey will have a zero carbon emissions footprint. Gas Networks Ireland believes that the future of public transport in Ireland will be based on renewable gas, using waste from the agriculture and food industry. Notably, the SEAI has concluded that 25% of the gas used in Ireland could be sourced renewable gas.”
Biomethane is a naturally occurring renewable gas produced by the anaerobic digestion of organic materials and residues from agriculture, food production and waste processing. It can be produced biomethane from slurry, sewage, red meat processing waste, residues from breweries and distilleries, food waste, and farm manure. Biomethane not only generates energy, but also supports a more circular economy through the use of waste as a resource.
“Our research in collaboration with Gas Networks Ireland is focussed on greening of transport fuel through circular economy routes”, said UCC Prof. Jerry Murphy of MaREI (Marine and Renewable Energy Ireland). “We see agri-slurries and municipal wastes converted to biogas which can then be used to fuel buses and lorries in place of diesel. The biogas systems can operate as waste treatment systems, whilst reducing GHG emissions on the farm, producing biofertiliser, displacing diesel, emitting no harmful emissions in combustion resulting in better air quality in cities. This demonstration represents a significant step forward in delivering a sustainable renewable fuel for Irish transport.”
The Energy Cork Transport SubGroup, which comprises representation from Cork Chamber, Gas Networks Ireland, Cork City Council, Cork County Council, UCC and Bus Eireann, has been engaged for a number of years in advocating the benefits and opportunities for adopting Compressed Natural Gas and Biomethane (carbon neutral) for our public bus fleet in Cork. The Committee is committed to seeing a step change in the use of alternatively fuelled technologies in transport infrastructure.