Energy infrastructure company firmus energy wants to help Northern Ireland achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, one home at a time.

The Antrim-based business already supplies natural gas for heating and cooking to over 110,000 customers across Northern Ireland. But crucially, 60% of consumers in the region still use oil as their main domestic fuel. 

Firmus hopes to change this with the help of a recent investment package from a consortium of banks, including £70M in backing from Ulster Bank – the only local bank in the group.

This is a major deal that is very important to Northern Ireland’s gas energy infrastructure

Damien Long
Corporate banking relationship director, Ulster Bank

Denise Curran, Finance Director for firmus energy, welcomed the funding, saying: “This package will allow us to continue our investment as we seek to deliver sustainable gas through our network and continue our journey towards a net-zero carbon future. We are grateful to Ulster Bank and the other lenders for their support.”

Achieving carbon savings from gas

Northern Ireland’s Department for the Economy (DfE), which oversees energy strategy, has recognised the need to move the population away from oil-fired boilers if it is to meet national emissions targets by 2050, and that a pivot to gas is a necessary step towards that.

As the DfE website states: “Currently, almost two out of every three homes in Northern Ireland are still heated by oil. In the short-term, converting properties from oil to natural gas can result in up to 48% carbon savings.”

But the Northern Ireland Energy Strategy points out that gas decarbonisation must ultimately be achieved in order to address climate change issues and meet net-zero goals. This will most likely be done by injecting renewable, carbon neutral biomethane, and potentially hydrogen, into the gas network.

As the largest gas-supply business and the second-largest gas distribution network in Northern Ireland, firmus energy will use the refinancing package to expand delivery of sustainable gas and to facilitate the injection of biomethane into the network.

Damien Long, corporate banking relationship director at Ulster Bank, said: “Ulster Bank has managed firmus energy’s day-to-day banking for many years and we are very pleased to now also support the business’ lending requirements. This is a major deal that is very important to Northern Ireland’s gas energy infrastructure.

“In line with net zero 2050 targets, firmus energy plans to reduce the carbon impact of the business by injecting biomethane and hydrogen blends into the network. Their movement toward sustainable fuel aligns well with Ulster Bank’s purpose and ESG targets, so we are very pleased to provide this support.” 

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