UnNews:Mobilized methane moves motors
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6 October 2007
LONDON, England (UnNews)—The butt—in more ways than one—of a thousand puerile jokes, methane, in the form of natural gas, has for some time now been used to fuel cars and other modes of transport. For example, the Honda Civic GX, which uses natural gas, has been rated the cleanest car on earth, despite claims from its competitors and critics that it is, at best, "stationary".
The digestive tracts of all living creatures produce methane, a by-product of the action of bacteria breaking down ingested food matter. Because of the specialized diet followed by schoolboys, they create considerably more of the gas than any other animal—75 percent of the total methane produced by all mammals.
Although many ludicrous attempts have been made, to date no viable method has been devised to capture this gas as it erupts from either end of the schoolboy, other than the time-honored practice of setting the gas on fire while drinking beer with your friends and burning mysterious holes in your underwear as a result.
Swedish company Svenska Biogas, however, are currently doing the next best thing: taking the bits of schoolboys that would otherwise be discarded during the puberty process—stomach and intestines primarily, but also testicles, blood and parts of the liver and kidneys—and extracting the residual methane directly from them.
"Depending on the schoolboy's size, we can get 20-30 kilos of material from each," Carl Lilliehook, Managing Director of Svenska Biogas told UnNews.
"These are all the things that would otherwise be classified as juvenile delinquency and either incinerated or disposed of in landfill sites."
"This material is then heated at 70 degrees centigrade for one hour to boil off the impurities, and put in a digester for one month, where micro-organisms break it down, producing a mixture of methane and CO2 which is drawn out of the top of the digester."
Having been "upgraded"—filtered through water and single malt whiskey to remove as much of the CO2 as possible—the resultant methane biogas is then used to fuel cars, taxis, rubbish trucks, aircraft and the 7-strong bus-fleet in Linkoping, the town where Svenska Biogas is based.
"We have been running this system for two years, and are now taking 4,000 tonnes of juvenile waste each year," explains Lilliehook, "Mainly from schoolboys, but also from baseball players and stray kittens."
"From this we are able to produce five million cubic meters of biogas. Linkoping's seven buses use three million cubic meters annually, and the rest fuels other vehicles such as golf carts and Formula 1 racing cars."
The boiled-gut biogas is even being used to power "Amanda," a train that runs the 116 kms between Linkoping and Vastervik and the world's first train to be powered solely by biogas (the entrails of one schoolboy, it is estimated, are enough to fuel the train for four kilometers, making Linkoping-Vastervik a 29-schoolboy one-way journey, or a 58-schoolboy return).
The decomposed stew of innards from which the gas has been extracted, meanwhile, is employed as bio-fertilizer by local farmers, ensuring that the whole process leaves no waste other than the flavor-enhanced single malt whiskey, which is being marketed to certain connoisseurs.
Arnold Schwarzenegger, as governor of California, has been in touch with a view to introducing the technology to the U.S., where the consumption of so-called "fast food" would provide even greater yields of gas. "This may require several changes to the Constitution, and those will have to wait in line for the change which allows me to become President", Governor Swartzenegger warned.
"I've even had discussions with someone from Uganda" says Lilliehook. "Apparently President Museveni had heard about our biogas train and wanted to have something similar in his own country."
However, Professor Mike Rapstinx, a spokesman for the Russian School of Ballet, is critical. "We already have a shortage of male dancers," he warns. "I have not performed the necessary detailed statistical analysis, but my gut feeling is that this initiative is going to deprive the world of the next Rudolf Nureyev"
Lilliehook accepts that schoolboy guts are not necessarily going to provide the definitive solution to global warming or the mortgage subprime crisis. In the week that the U.N. under-secretary general for humanitarian affairs warned that the world is already in the grip of a climate change "mega-disaster," however, he believes that they have an important role to play.
"I certainly think that this is a technology that can help to reduce greenhouse gases," Lilliehook told UnNews. "True, it costs a lot more than petrol or diesel—you need 200 percent more biogas to give the same amount of energy—but the environmental benefits in terms of school discipline and cleaner emissions are enormous."
"Biogas is definitely the way forward."
So far as methane biogas is concerned, the winds of change would definitely seem to be blowing.
- CNN "Cow methane: A trump card in the fight against global warming?". CNN, October 5, 2007