A new collaboration between scientists, engineers, industry and farming experts hopes to demonstrate how clever technology can reduce the powerful greenhouse gases released by livestock to help agriculture reach carbon emissions targets.
Methane, released when livestock belch and pass wind, is about 30 times as effective as carbon dioxide in trapping heat over a 100 year timescale.
The methane released by animals such as cows accounts for about 50 per cent of agricultural greenhouse gas emissions and represents a major barrier for the farming sector to meet net zero targets.
The new project, a collaboration between Durham University, sustainable technologies leader Johnson Matthey, University of Nottingham and NFU Energy, will test the feasibility of catalytic equipment to safely decompose methane in barn air, where it is most concentrated and preventing it from being released into the wider atmosphere.
The £250,000 project, partly funded by UKRI’s Farming Innovation Pathways funding grants, will build on existing technology and look specifically at how to adapt this to the agricultural sector.
If successful, the team hopes that this could pave the way for a new “farm-ready” technology which could have a significant impact on reducing the greenhouse gas emissions of livestock farming.
Dr Simon Beaumont, Associate Professor in Chemistry at Durham University, said; “Methane from livestock – or ‘moothane’– accounts for about 50 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector, and around one third of this is released indoors.
“So, whilst ‘moothane’ is a significant challenge for the farming industry, there is also a real opportunity to solve this challenge and in doing so, help this industry take a big step towards carbon-reduction.”
The project brings together experts from academia and industry to take a multidisciplinary approach to tackling the ‘moothane’ problem.
Johnson Matthey has existing methane-catalyst technology (COMET technology), for use within underground mining operations, which they hope to re-configure through this project to help address the needs of the livestock farming industry. The concentration of methane emitted in the ventilation air from mines is low, typically less than 1%, which makes performing any useful chemistry challenging. The concentration of methane in dairy barns is even lower than air from mines, presenting even greater technical challenges.
“Emissions associated with the production of beef and dairy products are too great to be ignored as the world moves towards net zero. To make an impact, we need to find how we can reduce the associated methane from cows burping. Contrary to popular belief, most methane does not come from the back end of livestock,” explains Andrew Scullard, Principal Scientist at Johnson Matthey. READ MORE
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