Argentina Drawing Natural Gas from Cow Burps

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Argentine researchers have found a way to transform the gas created by cow digestive systems into fuel, a development that could also reduce some of the greenhouse gases that cause global warming.

Argentina's National Institute of Agricultural Technology (INTA) has developed a technique that channels cow gas from bovine stomach cavities, using an experimental system of valves and pumps.

The eruptos, as these burps are known as in Spanish, are then pushed through a tube into a tank, where the valuable methane is separated from other gasses, including carbon dioxide. Methane is the primary component of natural gas, which is used to fuel anything from automobiles to gas turbines. And we sure as heck ain't going to get it from Mars.

Guillermo Berra, head of INTA's animal physiology group, said "Once you get it compressed, it's the same as having natural gas. As an energy source it is not very practical at the moment, but if you look ahead to 2050, when fossil fuel reserves are going to be in trouble, it is an alternative."

Cows were first brought to Argentina in 1536 by Spanish Conquistadors. Due to the geography of the Pampas, or the fertile lowlands of South America, and a small national market, the cattle multiplied rapidly. Argentina currently has about 52 million head of cattle, and is the world's second largest consumer of beef.

Each cow gives off about 250-300 liters of methane a day. This can be converted to enough energy to run a refrigerator for 24 hours. Seems negligible, but these combined eruptos account for 30% of Argentina's total greenhouse gas emissions. Also, methane is 23 times worse than carbon dioxide, regarding global warming.

Cows have been good to Argentina, which is still one of the world's top beef exporters. Argentine carne de res and its production have played a major part in the Culture of Argentina, with revenues contributing to politics, philanthropy and society. The new cow burp harvesting system might come to usher in a new era of bovine bank.

Image via Wikimedia Commons.

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