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€75m plan to roll out compressed natural gas filling stations

Gas Networks Ireland (GNI) is planning a €75m investment to roll out filling stations for compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles.

The commercial semi-state body has been working on a station in Dublin Port, which is due to become operational by the end of this year.

“The initial view is we roll out 14 stations but ultimately we want to take that to about 70 stations, focusing on commercial transport and commercial haulage,” GNI head of commercial Denis O’Sullivan told the Sunday Independent.

“We’re looking at how the network is going to support carbon emissions reduction in the energy sector … there’s a clear opportunity there for heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) and buses and so on to switch over to CNG.

“There’s a good commercial case for it as well as the environmental case.”

EU funding has been secured for a portion of the project, which will come to around €75m for the 70 stations.

The United States Department of Energy estimates there are more than 15 million natural gas vehicles in use worldwide. Uptake has been slower in Europe than in other regions, O’Sullivan said.

The initial 14 stations – expected to be built by 2019 or 2020 – are part of a €24m investment, which also includes a vehicle support fund. The fund allows companies to apply for funding that covers the difference between buying a standard HGV and a CNG HGV.

The rest of the stations are being earmarked for completion between 2025 and 2030, depending on demand, O’Sullivan said.

Gas Networks Ireland is working with Bus Eireann and Dublin Bus on a project that would see some of the fleet transfer to CNG vehicles, he said. A tender for alternative fuel buses has been put out by Transport Infrastructure Ireland and Gas Networks Ireland is hopeful that a large proportion of the vehicles procured will be CNG vehicles, he added.

GNI is responsible for managing Ireland’s gas network, encompassing nearly 14,000 kilometres of pipelines. It has also made progress on advancing so-called renewable gas – a carbon neutral biogas derived from sources like food waste and animal manure. This could then be used to replace CNG, including in vehicles.

GNI wants to have renewable gas make up 20pc of all the gas on the Irish network by 2030, and aims to commission the first facility that will inject renewable gas into the network this year.

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