Energy: Manure Fuel?

Pilot project for cattle waste

Natural gas is a critically scarce fuel in the U.S.—but there is no detectable shortage of cow manure. A howling non sequitur? Not to the U.S. Department of Energy. It has granted $938,000 for a pilot project to turn cattle waste into methane, a form of natural gas.

The site is a giant feed lot in central Florida where 20,000 cattle at a time are fattened. Their droppings will be placed into fermenter tanks filled with thermophilic (heat-loving) bacteria. As the bacteria ingest the manure at a temperature of 120°, they give off a gas that is...

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