MaREI secure €4.4 million to support Ireland’s indigenous biomass and bioenergy industry

Big bet on biomass could put Ireland at forefront of renewable energy research under the new Sustainable Energy and Fuel Efficiency (SEFE) SFI Spokes programme.

L-R: Prof Henry Curran, Spoke leader; Dr Maria Tuohy, principal investigator; Prof Brian O’Gallachoir, director of MaREI; Minister of State Sean Kyne; Dr Rory Monaghan, principal investigator; Prof Donal Leech, dean, College of Science NUIG, at the unveiling of the SFI-SEFE Spoke programme

L-R: Prof Henry Curran, Spoke leader; Dr Maria Tuohy, principal investigator; Prof Brian O’Gallachoir, director of MaREI; Minister of State Sean Kyne; Dr Rory Monaghan, principal investigator; Prof Donal Leech, dean, College of Science NUIG, at the unveiling of the SFI-SEFE Spoke programme

The SFI Research Centre for Marine and Renewable Energy Ireland (MaREI)has secured an additional €4.4 million in funding from Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) and industry partners under the Sustainable Energy and Fuel Efficiency (SEFE) SFI Spokes Programme.

Speaking at the launch Minister of State at the Department of Rural and Community Development and the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Seán Kyne TD, felt that “Climate Action has never been more important to the continued growth and prosperity of our nation as it is now. Ireland has an abundance of natural resources with enormous potential for sustainable energy output, but we need to continue to invest in more efficient technologies for harnessing this potential. I am delighted to see researchers from the SFI Research Centre, MaREI exploring new and innovative technologies to support Ireland’s ambition of meeting national environmental, energy and climate targets, as well as those set by the European Commission.”

The SEFE Research Programme led by Prof Henry Curran (NUI Galway) and Prof Jerry D Murphy (University College Cork) leverages the scientific expertise of ten of Ireland’s top academics in bioenergy research across four Universities (NUI Galway, UCC, UL, TCD) and Teagasc. The programme of work will also include the technical and commercial expertise of ten national and international companies. This four-year collaborative programme aims to; identify viable routes to increase the efficient utilisation and supply of sustainable energy; and to support Ireland’s ambition to meet National and EU environmental targets.

L-r: Post-doctoral researchers Dr Lara Martins Paolo and Dr Corine Nzeteu at the new MaREI SEFE Spoke laboratory in NUI Galway

Prof Jerry D Murphy, Director of MaREI and head of the bioenergy research group stated: “The benefit of the SFI Research Centres has been immense for research and innovation; Ireland now has a one stop shop system for research expertise that includes the best researchers across the island, coupled with the most relevant industrial partners. This removes the previous competition between researchers and enhances research impact through multi-disciplinary, multi-institute input into industrially relevant cutting edge work. This partnership will bring together the top academics and industry in bioenergy and biofuels, with an overarching ambition of meeting the national objective of decarbonising energy and facilitating Ireland’s transition to a low carbon technology.”

The Spoke research teams will collaborate in developing technologies capable of converting a wide variety of residues and by-products to homogenous energy carriers and optimising performance of internal combustion engines using advanced fuels including biofuel blends.

The Spoke work programme will complement existing MaREI activities in the bioenergy sector as well as adding new competencies in the area of advanced thermal treatment, combustion modelling and design. The outputs of the Spoke work programme will contribute in a measurable way toward important EU and national environmental and economic objectives in the areas of energy decarbonisation, wastewater treatment, sustainable transport, resource recovery, clean air and water, rural development and diversification of agriculture.

Dr Maria Tuohy pictured at the new MaREI SEFE Spoke laboratory in NUI Galway.

The technologies to be advanced by the SEFE Spoke will address some of the drawbacks associated with Ireland’s reliance on imported biofuels and intermittent renewables by improving the efficiency and reducing the carbon intensity of power generation and transport from combustion and boosting the supply of renewable heat, which makes up 41% of Ireland’s energy consumption, as well as meeting sustainable waste management challenges.

Prof Brian Ó Gallachóir, Co-Director of MaREI commented “I am particularly enthused by the industry support for this project. Our research in MaREI is greatly enriched through the partnership we have with our industry partners. In addition to deepening our collaboration with Gas Networks Ireland, this project enables us to benefit from collaborating with a wide range of new partners including ABP Food Group, Arigna Fuels, Siemens and NVP Energy. This investment will in turn enable these industry partners to harness and benefit from the research and innovation capacity we have in MaREI.”

Prof Henry Curran of NUI Galway said “The granting of the Spoke award by SFI and the national and multi-national industry commitment endorses and strengthens the research being undertaken in sustainable energy systems by the participating universities and Teagasc.  I look forward to collaborating on world class research that will underpin the transition to a sustainable, low-carbon future.

L-r: Dr Rory Monaghan, Dr Maria Tuohy and Professor Henry Curran at the new MaREI SEFE Spoke laboratory in NUI Galway, pictured beside a Rapid Compression Machine which reproduces the conditions that exist in internal combustion engines and gas turbines.

Deputy Director General of Science Foundation Ireland, Dr Ciarán Seoighe welcomed the announcement saying “Science Foundation Ireland is delighted to support the Sustainable Energy and Fuel Efficiency Spokes project, which comes at a time when the need for new and innovative means to tackle climate change are sorely needed. The Spokes Programme offers a valuable means for research-active companies to align with any of the 17 SFI Research Centres and utilise the world-renowned expertise and state-of-the-art infrastructure therein. Partnerships like this support Ireland’s drive towards an environmentally sustainable future and places us at the forefront of renewable energy research.”