Cows produce up to 25% of methane emissions, and methane is a particularly potent greenhouse gas. It's no joke, then, to talk about limiting emissions from cow farts. We've written before about new breeding techniques and feeds, which could help cows better digest their food so they produce less gas. Now comes an idea for collecting up the gas, and making energy from it.
Well, sort of. The project from Argentina's National Institute of Agricultural Technology is only a proof-of-concept at this stage. But it is intriguing. Researchers put plastic backpacks on cows, then inserted tubes into their rumens (their biggest digestive tract). They extracted the methane—about 300 liters a day. That's enough to run a car, or a fridge for 24 hours.
Pablo Sorondo, INTA's press officer, says the project isn't ongoing. The point is to show that it's possible to collect methane from cows and use it for energy. That's unlikely to be as part of the mainstream system. But perhaps it could be viable on remote farms, he says (Argentina has 51.2 million cows).
"[We] believe that such technology could be used to collect methane on larger scale, and even imagine a future farm with a couple of these cows used to provide energy to satisfy the farm’s needs," Sorondo says.
"It could also be possible to think in an association of farmers in a certain area, cooperating to provide the community with this source of energy."