New process turns cow waste into usable gas: “A form of liquid gold”

Seven-year-old James Hoare is the future of his family farm in England, and one of his jobs is shoveling the farm’s future… in the form of cow poo in the barn.

“It’s a form of liquid gold, isn’t it?” said his mother Katie Hoare, who helps run the rented operation. “Because you can’t do much without the slurry, it’s an incredible form of fertilizer.” 

The “slurry,” better known as liquid cow patties, is powering the farm. Once collected, the cow waste is pumped into a lagoon where the harmful methane is captured, instead of leaking into the atmosphere. Two tarps cover the lagoon, first collecting the raw methane released from the cow waste.  It’s then processed and pumped under a second tarp for storage to produce gas. 

Bennamann CEO Chris Mann said that the longer the waste sits in the collection well, the more methane it loses. “So, the sooner we get it pumped in, the better,” he said.

Scientists estimate livestock are responsible for 14 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.  According to the United States Department of Agriculture, there are around two million livestock farms in the United States. Bennamann said their process could work with any farm that has animal waste.

“In a day, we can produce half a ton (of gas),” said Mann. That’s enough to run a special New Holland tractor for about a week.  

“We call it the T6180 methane power, but my children call it the cow fart tractor,” said Mark Howell, New Holland Global Product Manager for Alternative Fuel. 

Howell said livestock could be a solution to global warming and cutting greenhouse gas emissions.  

“Dairy and cows have sort of been demonized for destroying the ozone layer, and that’s absolutely wrong, because in fact what we’re doing here is we’re promoting dairy as a way of reducing fossil fuel usage,” he said, adding that the farm no longer needs to buy fuel to run their machinery.

Mann said his company’s process reduces the carbon footprint of Hoare’s farm by around 75 percent.

Currently, the farm is producing more gas than it needs, so the local county is buying some of the carbon-friendly fuel to help the community. “The biomethane can actually then power the vehicles that repair our roads,” said Cornwall Councilor Martyn Alvey.

The next step is developing a generator to take the farm completely off the grid.  

“Milking, lights, the whole kabang, it will all be run off poo,” said Katie Hoare.

It’s safe to say that she and her family have a whole new appreciation for the cow waste.   

“Before when you’re in (the barn) cursing (the poo) and moving it around, now you still curse a little bit, but you just think of the greater good, don’t you, because it’s doing amazing things,” she said.

If all the waste in the United Kingdom was utilized, New Holland and Bennaman predict they could provide about 10 percent of the nation’s energy needs.

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