Northern Ireland’s largest natural gas supplier firmus energy hosted its twelfth annual stakeholder briefing for business leaders, customers, industry, and political stakeholders.
The audience heard from some of the leading voices in energy and business including Richard Ramsey, Chief Economist, Ulster Bank, Lucy Field and Andy Kelly of Afry Management Consulting which provides strategic and operational advice to the world’s energy industries.
Firmus Energy took the opportunity to highlight the steps it is taking to introduce renewable gas solutions such as Biomethane and Hydrogen into its existing gas network in support of Northern Ireland’s net zero carbon ambitions as well as its plans to continue growing its network.
Dr David Dobbin CBE, Chairman, Firmus Energy, said:
“In the short term, switching from oil to natural gas provides an immediate carbon reduction of around 50%. To enable more consumers and businesses to switch to gas in our network, we continue at pace to lay mains and infill pipeline to local neighbourhoods. Gas is now installed in 63,000 premises across our 2,000 km Ten Towns network and gas is immediately available to a further 120,000 homes and businesses.
“Our modern network is suitable to transport biomethane and hydrogen to homes and businesses in the future without the need for customers to change their current heating systems. In the meantime, there is clearly significant potential to reduce Northern Ireland’s carbon footprint by switching from oil to natural gas”.
Renewable gas will soon be injected into the firmus network.
Firmus Energy’s Chief Executive Officer Niall Martindale recognised that current market prices present a considerable challenge for household and business consumers but warned now is not the time to stall on extending the network for supplies of renewable gas.
“A recent Centre for Advanced Sustainable Energy (CASE) report from Queens University outlined that 80% of the total natural gas distribution network demand in Northern Ireland could be sourced from biomethane via Anaerobic digesters utilising all current housed livestock manure and underutilised grass silage as feedstock.
“We are also pleased to be working with Mid and East Antrim Borough Council on the potential for developing a hydrogen gas network in Ballymena to support the growing hydrogen economy, centred around local businesses like Translink, NI Water and Wright Bus. Thanks to funding from the Belfast Region City Deal this will include an i4C Innovation and Cleantech Centre to progress the local skills and knowledge base with respect to hydrogen, further supporting growth of the ‘green economy’.”
Commenting after attending the briefing North Antrim DUP MLA Paul Frew said:
“It was great to meet again in person to hear first-hand the excellent briefings not only from the firmus CEO but from others in the field of global gas and electricity Markets. There are many challenges ahead and it’s important to raise awareness so we can better understand how it works and what is possible regarding solutions and opportunities.”
AFRY energy market experts Lucy Field and Andy Kelly gave an overview of the international influences causing the current surge in global and European gas and electricity prices including economic and political relations with Russia, gas storage, LNG trends and seasonal weather conditions.
Ulster Bank Chief Economist Richard Ramsey also gave an international, UK and local perspective on the economic drivers which are currently impacting business and consumer spending decisions and outlined what additional financial pressures and opportunities he expects to see in the second half of 2022.
firmus energy is a natural gas distribution and supply company, based in Antrim. Since 2005, firmus energy has connected over 63,000 customers in its network area (outside greater Belfast) and supplies natural gas to over 111,000 Northern Ireland customers including around 6,200 businesses.