Argentine scientists have found a way to convert gas produced by bovine digestive systems into a fuel source, reported Reuters on Monday, though they do not expect the method to be practical for at least another 30 years.
According to Reuters, the scientists from Argentina's National Institute of Agricultural Technology (INTA) had developed a technique that allowed them to channel digestive gases from bovine stomach cavities into a gas tank, through an experimental system of valves and pumps.
The stored gases - commonly known as burps, or "eruptos" in Spanish - could then be processed to separate methane from other gases such as carbon dioxide, with the methane then being able to be used to fuel everything from cars to power plants.
"Once you get it (methane) compressed, it's the same as having natural gas," said Guillermo Berra, head of INTA's animal physiology group.
"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," he told Reuters.
Berra highlighted that a single cow emits between 250 and 300 litres of pure methane a day - enough energy to keep a refrigerator running for 24 hours.
Additionally, the system could help reduce Argentina's level of greenhouse gas emissions, said Berra, with livestock said to generate around 30 percent of the nation's total emissions.
Methane is believed to be 23 times more harmful to the environment, in regards to global warming, as compared to carbon dioxide. Cows emit a massive amount of methane through belching, with a lesser amount through flatulence.
Other countries with large bovine populations have also sought to reduce emissions from livestock. The EU for instance has funded research that would selectively breed and produce low methane-producing cows.
Argentina currently has about 51 million head of cattle, and is the world's third largest exporter of beef. They are also the world's second largest consumer of beef.
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