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Cow Burps Tapped For Fuel

timothy posted 1 year,1 day | from the like-y'-do dept.

Technology 85

Dave Knott writes with this intriguing snippet from CBC: "Argentine scientists have found a way to transform the gas created by the bovine digestive system into fuel, an innovation that could curb greenhouse gases that cause global warming. Using a system of valves and pumps, the experimental technique developed by Argentina's National Institute of Agricultural Technology (INTA) channels the digestive gases from bovine stomach cavities through a tube and into a tank. The gases — which otherwise are commonly known as burps, or "eruptos" in Spanish — are then processed to separate methane from other gases such as carbon dioxide. Each head of cattle emits between 250 and 300 liters of pure methane a day, enough energy to keep a refrigerator running for 24 hours."

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whatever (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,1 day | (#45202083)

No way this will happen unless it can be done without raising the price of a double cheeseburger over $0.99

Re:whatever (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,1 day | (#45202229)

It won't be done unless the money they can get for the generated fuel pays for the expense.

Re:whatever (4, Informative)

CastrTroy (595695) | 1 year,1 day | (#45202729)

I guess that's the big question. My gas company charges 14 cents per cubic meter (1000 litres), so if each cow produced 250 litres a day, you'd get about 3.5 cents per day for each head of cattle. Probably not enough to even pay for the food. Especially considering that's the price to the consumer. You're not going to get anywhere close to 14 cents per cubic meter for bulk methane. However, if you're already raising the cattle for milk or meat, it could be a good way to add an extra source of income. Although at the price you could get, you probably wouldn't even end up breaking even on the collection system.

Re:whatever (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,1 day | (#45203167)

My guess the money would come in as a carbon credit/offset in some way, not from the methane itself.

Methane tends to be more efficient trapping radiation than CO2.

"Pound for pound, the comparative impact of CH4 on climate change is over 20 times greater than CO2 over a 100-year period."
Didn't RTFA, but read

Re:whatever (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | 1 year,1 day | (#45205223)

Your gas company? How much do they pay per cubic metre? A hell of a lot less than 14c.

Re:whatever (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,1 day | (#45203169)

Not necessarily, it could be forced by law to protect the environment, like the way gas stations are forced to install vapor recovery devices on pumps. The difference is people buy burgers at a fixed price point, $0.99, $2.99, etc... so even if the price of beef is raised, the price of other ingredients or process could be altered to maintain the price point. However, if the costs are high enough that the price point can't be maintained then the polity won't stand for it it and it wont happen.

just like the matrix (1)

schlachter (862210) | 1 year,1 day | (#45202107)

turn the cow into a battery

Re:just like the matrix (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,1 day | (#45202207)

turn the cow into a battery

I don't think Carrie-Ann Moss looked that bad.

Re:just like the matrix (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,1 day | (#45202225)

I hated that part of the matrix. The original story was that the humans were used for their brains. The machines lived inside the networked human collective mind, because the human brain was--in this fictitious universe--the most powerful and energy efficient computer. But the studio thought that was too abstract, and so came up with the battery idea.

Re:just like the matrix (5, Funny)

SJHillman (1966756) | 1 year,1 day | (#45202395)

I always thought the human battery idea was sort of like saying we use potatoes to power the LHC.

Idiot! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,1 day | (#45202589)

Considering the amount of rubbish burning stations in Europe, the LHC certainly is run in part by potatoes. I see where you were going with this, but you, sir, are a DOLT!


Anonymous Coward | 1 year,1 day | (#45205685)

MOD parent UP

Re:just like the matrix (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,1 day | (#45202493)

But the studio thought that was too abstract, and so came up with the battery idea.

It actually makes sense when you realize that the 'free' humans were not picked for their mastery of science. Someone was lied to by a program, Morpheus believed the person (probably through a chain of re-tellers), and that's what he told Mr. Anderson. They were all too busy fighting their odd war of survival to notice that the science they accepted was wrong, and that electricity could not be the AI's motive for keeping the Matrix up and running.

AKA: unreliable narrator.

Re:just like the matrix (1)

stewsters (1406737) | 1 year,1 day | (#45203547)

That just blew my mind. Again.

Re:just like the matrix (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,1 day | (#45205463)

Either way, the Matrix makes a lot more sense when you realize it's not about energy, per se, but computing power. And the link between Neo and Agent Smith in particular--and also the way Agent Smith "downloaded" into the human--makes much more sense, presuming you don't think about it too hard, because it kind of suggests that it may be turtles all the way down, which is admittedly a tad too cerebral even for my tastes.

Re:just like the matrix (2)

thisisauniqueid (825395) | 1 year,1 day | (#45206519)

Not to mention that the battery idea allowed the studio to put a very prominent Duracell product placement right at one of the biggest "climactic realization" moments of the movie.

Re:just like the matrix (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,1 day | (#45202367)

I'd say closer to Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, actually.


Re:just like the matrix (1)

g0bshiTe (596213) | 1 year,1 day | (#45202421)

Master Blaster

Re:just like the matrix (1)

asylumx (881307) | 1 year,1 day | (#45202763)

That's exactly what I was thinking -- especially when you think about the "stem cell burger" we were recently able to create, with a few harvested stem cells and some calf's blood.

Re:just like the matrix (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,1 day | (#45203189)

They tried that, the cow's didn't like it:

What kind of tripe is this? (1)

bobbied (2522392) | 1 year,1 day | (#45202137)

Ah come on... Cow BURPS? There are a whole lot of ways to get methane from the things cows expel, mostly from the OTHER end, that are a whole lot easier and effective than what they burp up. But hey... Who wants to shovel the stuff into the tank where we can easily capture the methane it generates?

I'm calling BS on this.. (grin)

Re:What kind of tripe is this? (4, Funny)

bobbied (2522392) | 1 year,1 day | (#45202189)

And then you have to "insert tubes" into the poor cows to do this? PETA is going to have a COW! Uh.. Wait...

Re:What kind of tripe is this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,1 day | (#45202231)

I remember reading somewhere that most of this methane actually comes up the front end of the cow (same for sheep), with a very small percentage from the back end. Sure, you could go Bartertown with the solid stuff as well - in addition to the burps.

Re:What kind of tripe is this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,1 day | (#45202257)

Actually Cow burps and farts are one of the highest producers of methane in the atmosphere. Rice paddies are another. Methane is a greenhouse gas that is actually LESS harmful to the atmosphere once burned. This is for real, though in my mind, surgery and attaching a tank to a cow is probably a non-starter.

Re:What kind of tripe is this? (4, Informative)

g0bshiTe (596213) | 1 year,1 day | (#45202461)

Why cows already have portholes.

Re:What kind of tripe is this? (1)

i_am_socket (970911) | 1 year,1 day | (#45203171)

Holy Cow!

Re:What kind of tripe is this? (1)

nightsky30 (3348843) | 1 year,1 day | (#45206843)

Holey Cow!


Re:What kind of tripe is this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,1 day | (#45202267)

Nothing wrong with taking it from both ends.

Giddy up cowboy.

Re:What kind of tripe is this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,1 day | (#45203007)

I bet that's not what your butt doctor told you.

Re:What kind of tripe is this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,1 day | (#45202289)

Look at the photo in the article.
It does appear to collect from the hind portion of the cow

Re:What kind of tripe is this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,1 day | (#45202365)

From a linked to article:

". . . 95 per cent of the methane released by cows comes out of their mouths."
go figure

Re:What kind of tripe is this? (1)

bobbied (2522392) | 1 year,1 day | (#45202703)

No, they are just taking it from the stomach of the cow though surgically installed tube in the cow's left side. Methane produced in the intestines would not be collected though this system, nor would the methane produced from what exits the cow.

Re:What kind of tripe is this? (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | 1 year,1 day | (#45205293)

.... which is only 5%, so no big loss. Better to chase the 95% than the 5%.

Re:What kind of tripe is this? (1)

bobbied (2522392) | 1 year,1 day | (#45206553)

Three is an "Ease of collection" angle to be considered though. If you can get 5% plus additional gas from a digester system when you scoop all the poop into it, why bother with having to perform surgery on each cow?

I got to wonder how expensive the surgery is and what the mortality rate is? Surely that's not insignificant cost. This whole thing seems very non-cost effective to me, even if I've not been on a farm working with cows for 30+ years..

Re:What kind of tripe is this? (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | 1 year,1 day | (#45208177)

If surgery fails, sell the cow as beef...

Re:What kind of tripe is this? (1)

bobbied (2522392) | 1 year,22 hours | (#45211713)

Problem with that idea is that any animal that dies outside of the slaughter house is *not* allowed to be sold for human consumption. You can eat it yourself, but you cannot sell it to somebody. Which is a law that makes a lot of sense for food safety.

So you can sell the carcass for dog food or for rendering, but it's not legal to sell it for use in hamburger.

Re:What kind of tripe is this? (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | 1 year,15 hours | (#45216565)

So do the surgery in the slaughter house!

Re:What kind of tripe is this? (1)

bobbied (2522392) | 1 year,13 hours | (#45218117)

LOL.. The ACA in its final form...

Re:What kind of tripe is this? (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | 1 year,4 hours | (#45221069)

What's this got to do with accountants?

Re:What kind of tripe is this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,1 day | (#45206977)

I see how you used the word 'just' to show the relative simplicity of installing the device.

Great contrast to the horror the animal goes through during its miserable life. Caged, with machines continuously pumping milk out of it, while tubes suck gas out of it. Eventually it is marched with hundreds of other cows down a long corridor to be killed and chopped into meat. The machines even inseminate them.

There are cows who live their entire lives without exposure to living plants, fresh air, or sunlight. Much like many of us here. I think I will have a burger for supper. MOM!

Re:What kind of tripe is this? (1)

g0bshiTe (596213) | 1 year,1 day | (#45202441)

BS comes from bulls not cows.

Re:What kind of tripe is this? (1)

bobbied (2522392) | 1 year,1 day | (#45202547)

Not always... Politicians seem to have the ability to produce a LOT of BS but I KNOW they are NOT bulls. Steers maybe, but NOT bulls!

Could the obese be tapped too? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,1 day | (#45202195)

You fat asses do relase a lot of methane.

Yes I know it's 'genetic'. You're not a greedy pig - you can't help stuffing your face with food. I believe you. Really.

Herbivors are the biggest farters. (0)

HornWumpus (783565) | 1 year,1 day | (#45203035)

We should be tapping the scrawny vegetarians. Better still, they will enjoy the process of installing the 'fittings'.

This is Total BullShit (2)

tanveer1979 (530624) | 1 year,1 day | (#45202211)

I repeat, this is Bullshit!

Re:This is Total BullShit (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,1 day | (#45204229)

Probably cow-shit actually. Science has to meet up with agribusiness somewheres, and in this case, it'll be dairy farms for sure. Bulls just don't live very long before being sold for meat, wheras a nice jersey will last a long time - and stop by to be milked each and every day. The same robotic milker can easily get a modification to swap out a canister that sits on the cow's back.

Serious Problem in Wisconsin (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,1 day | (#45202327)

This is a serious problem here in Wisconsin.
The barns are always at risk of exploding, and
this could greatly help reduce insurance costs.

Just imagine this... (2)

Chronus1326 (1769658) | 1 year,1 day | (#45202341)

(to be funny) Imaging this implemented on an industrial scale...Warehouses filled with pens of cows hooked up to all sorts of tubes, and strange looking devices, possibly a treadmill, lol. This is interesting in theory, but in practice...I don't see it

Re:Just imagine this... (1)

geekoid (135745) | 1 year,1 day | (#45203151)

What if tapping 20 cows means you can run the milking machine form free for the rest of your herd?

Pigs (1)

SJHillman (1966756) | 1 year,1 day | (#45202425)

This doesn't seem all that original... I've seen more than a few instances of pig farmers trapping the methane generated by pig farts.

OMG (4, Funny)

koan (80826) | 1 year,1 day | (#45202445)

I visualize a vast tower full of tubing hooked to burping cows powering a massive AI and all the humans are jacked into the other side living in the Mootrix.

The Meatrix (1)

tepples (727027) | 1 year,1 day | (#45206465)

So would the farm animals be in The Meatrix [] ?

Is your refrigerator running?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,1 day | (#45202537)

(Person on phone): Hello?

(ME): Is your refrigerator running??

(Person on phone): No! Actually, we lost power!

(ME): Then why don't you go CATCH IT!! haha!!

[In the distance]: MoooOOOOOOO!!!

(Person on phone): shit

Steampunk angle? (2)

cruff (171569) | 1 year,1 day | (#45202573)

This sounds like it could be a fertile subject for steampunk adaptation! Just imagine herds of cows with tanks attached. For dairy herds, when your cows come in for milking, you would also collect the accumulated methane at the same time. Cows with balloons filled with self generated methane could be flying around the skies!

Ummm.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,1 day | (#45202723)

Someone should tell them the methane comes out the ass, not the mouth...

Re:Ummm.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,1 day | (#45203587)

Umm... burps come out the mouth. Farts come out the rear.

I have an idea (3, Funny)

slashmydots (2189826) | 1 year,1 day | (#45202871)

One time I sneezed half the papers off my desk. They should look into that too because its an awful lot of energy.

Downside (1)

ThatsNotPudding (1045640) | 1 year,1 day | (#45203041)

If they did this, no doubt the long-term presence of the tubes would cause respiratory infections. TRIPLE THE ANTIBIOTICS.

How about human (1)

unixisc (2429386) | 1 year,1 day | (#45203397)

How about human burps, or better yet, excrement? How about managing to convert all human & animal excrement into fuel, particularly gasoline compatible fuel, that can run in our cars?

Re:How about human (1)

dasgoober (2882045) | 1 year,1 day | (#45204029)

Who run Barter-town?

Re:How about human (1)

FishTankX (1539069) | 1 year,1 day | (#45204113)

The tech to do so is already out there. SASOL which is a south african petroleum products company, has gas to liquids plants that can produce gasoline and diesel products from methane. All you need to do is feed the methane from landfills and sewage plants to these gas to liquids plants, and you have gasoline equivalents from human excrement. The key to this technology is finding a cheap plentiful source of gas and high gasoline and diesel prices. []

Animal Cruelty (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,1 day | (#45203785)

It's amazing what we'll do to animals to make a buck...

Welcome to the Mootrix! (1)

himthatwas (318166) | 1 year,1 day | (#45204057)

Really regretting those burritos last night, this fridge is looking at me a bit funny.

From the mind of David Lynch (2)

Yergle143 (848772) | 1 year,1 day | (#45204085)

The best Dune adapt has been there first. []
Great tech, now I can add another reason why I'm a vegetarian.

Is about the global warming (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,1 day | (#45204111)

The main goal of this research is to trap the methane to reduce global warming. I saw the news in spanish, cow farts contain certain amount of methane gas that could result to global warming, so trapping and using them is good for the enviroment.

Re:Is about the global warming (1)

unixisc (2429386) | 1 year,1 day | (#45206471)

But using them as fuel means burning them, which would release both H2O and CO2 into the atmosphere - the latter which is another greenhouse gas.

Re:Is about the global warming (2)

SleazyRidr (1563649) | 1 year,1 day | (#45207145)

Still a greenhouse gas but a less potent one. Like if you had cyanide in your bloodstream and I had a magical way to convert it to alcohol. It's still a toxin, but less likely to actually kill you.

what could go wrong with this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,1 day | (#45204137)

Cows walking around the fields with metal tanks filled with methane strapped to their backs... what will happen when one gets struck by lightening? Holy hamburger, Batman!

All in one meals! (1)

EZLeeAmused (869996) | 1 year,1 day | (#45204783)

It would be awesome if every steak or rack of ribs came with a canister of methane that I could plug into my BBQ grill.

Eruptos? (2)

gomiam (587421) | 1 year,1 day | (#45205393)

I think the word you are looking for is eructos.

The Simpsons did it! (1)

RussR42 (779993) | 1 year,1 day | (#45205417)

Each head of cattle emits between 250 and 300 liters of pure methane a day, enough energy to keep a refrigerator running for 24 hours

Now Frink can make his intra-bovine [] ice cream [] maker run directly from cow burps!

Tubes? (1)

Jmc23 (2353706) | 1 year,1 day | (#45205591)

Since most cows are life long cell mates why not just make the building airtight and put a methane extractor in your air exchange?

Re:Tubes? (1)

Jamie Ian Macgregor (3389757) | 1 year,1 day | (#45208867)

Finally, a non-retarded comment. I'm sure I saw something along these lines a while back where the cows spent a lot of time under a dome collecting expelled gasses

What if we just feed them grass instead? (1)

damn_registrars (1103043) | 1 year,1 day | (#45205997)

I'm not a veterinarian - nor do I play one on TV - but I understand that the bovine digestive system is really not optimal for digesting what we feed most cows these days (corn). I can't help but wonder if their methane production would go down if we went back to feeding them what they would ordinarily eat.

Re:What if we just feed them grass instead? (1)

bobbied (2522392) | 1 year,21 hours | (#45211887)

Sure, but you won't like the meat that results. Cows feed only grass take longer to get to slaughter weight. The beef produced is leaner, tougher and most folks strongly prefer grain fed beef as a result.

So nearly 100% of the beef consumed is from animals which are initially raised on grass, then spend the last few months of their lives being finished in feed lots. You have to slowly transition them to grain because the increased methane production of grain will kill them if you go too fast and to make the most efficient use of the grain it takes a little time to get their digestive system working on grain. Once on grain, you feed them to add fat and keep them from exercise as much as possible. Once they hit the target weight, you want to get them to the slaughter house ASAP.

Yes, I know first hand about most of this, having been a farm boy from way back, who enjoyed eating beef we raised ourselves.

If this takes off (1)

Cloud K (125581) | 1 year,1 day | (#45206253)

I bet it would be
a bit of a cash cow.

Nice (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,1 day | (#45206443)

One cow in the freezer, the other cow to power the freezer. Win-win.

So it's finally happening? (1)

halexists (2587109) | 1 year,1 day | (#45206447)

My dad used to joke about studies done in the 1970s about the viability of capturing methane from cows. I guess those cows showed him...?

Cow burps, what about flatus? (1)

RocRizzo (1144133) | 1 year,1 day | (#45206499)

Burps are one thing, but isn't more methane produced when it passes through all four stomachs, and is expelled at the end of their alimentary canal? If this is the case, I can think of quite a few humans who can be used for fuel, after a few pizzas and beers.

OMG (1)

jgarry (126205) | 1 year,1 day | (#45207293)

My roommate "predicted" this as part of a speech class in college, early 1975. He also drew up a Fartmobile, tubes coming out from under the seats. He didn't have a solution for the problem that girls don't fart.

It is horrible (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | 1 year,1 day | (#45207443)

They have a plastic tube coming out of the stomach wall connected to a mylar balloon. It is as shocking as that cow with a glass window in its side that allows the scientist to reach in and take samples of semi digested stuff from the cow's stomach.

Forget the belches and farts, cowshit has enough methane. It is far easier to sweep all the solid waste from the cow to retention ponds, cover it with a plastic sheet and collect the methane. It reduces odor pollution, gets methane fuel, and produces non-smelly organic fertilizer. But alas, now that natural gas prices has fallen to through the floor due to fracking, there is no incentive to do it for fuel. Organic fertilizer and odor pollution abatement are the only incentives for this now.

Right, sequester it as CO2. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,1 day | (#45209503)

So Algore can carbon-tax it.

Also, we can use the profits from that to start mining all that methane hydrate in the permafrost and the sea-floor just going to waste and threatening the end of life as we know it, etc.

Arachno the Usurian

head emission (1)

someoneOtherThanMe (1387847) | 1 year,1 day | (#45209861)

If each HEAD of the cattle emits so much methane, imagine how much the other end must emit!
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