Cow dung could be the fuel of the future

Harcarse Hill Farm, near Swinton in Berwickshire, is the world's first test site for the development of '˜moo-clear' power.

Sunday, 8th January 2017, 07:59 am
Updated Monday, 9th January 2017, 11:40 am
The cattle in the test shed at Harcarse Hill Farm are being fed grass grown in the dark without soil at a constant temperature of 19 degrees centigrade.

Experts say they are on the verge of a breakthrough that will revolutionise farming and provide an environmentally friendly fuel for cars, vans, tractors and other vehicles.

If successful, their secret formula will be worth a fortune.

“It will change the world,” said Dr Bob Jennings, a former ICI chemist.

All dung and bedding from the cow palace at the farm (Sunwick near Whitsome is also involved) will be turned into methane in a special anaerobic digester and this methane, in turn, will be converted into methanol using novel technology.

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Dr Jennings and his team are working on an additive that would then be added to the methanol to convert it into a useful fuel that could be used to power diesel engine vehicles or static diesel applications without any significant modifications to the engine.

First developed by ICI at a cost of around £100million, the additive, called Avocet, has been improved by Dr Jennings and Dr Glyn Short so that it can be produced cheaply in bulk, and also meets the latest regulations for the transportation of fuel.

Mixed with methanol, it effectively mimics diesel fuel without any of diesel’s harmful emissions.

As well as being cleaner than diesel, it is also much cheaper and 90 per cent less hazardous than petrol or diesel in the event of a fire.

“This is groundbreaking technology as it means we can make fuel that can completely replace diesel and lower harmful emissions by two thirds,” said Dr Jennings.

“This is the only fuel that meets European 2020 standards for major cities and it lets us carry on using diesel cars because it is clean.”

A company of the same name, Avocet Infinite plc, has been formed to develop and market the chemical.

Chairman Martin Frost said they were in negotiations with leading companies for distribution of the fuel in 2018.

“Methanol is the only fuel in the world that has been trialled and passed all NOx tests and found to be clean,” he said. “And even if the price of oil drops to $10 a barrel with a UK pump price of 80p per litre, the equivalent two litres of avocet methanol would be 70p – still leaving it as the cheaper fuel.”

It is hoped other farmers will also use dung from their cattle to make the green fuel which they could then use for their own tractors, selling any excess.

“We are trying to shift farming away from just growing crops and livestock to developing energy,” said Mr Frost. “If they follow our lead they should get a return of 20 per cent for their capital instead of the one per cent they get currently. This will change the face of traditional farming.”

The cattle in the test shed at the farm are also being fed grass grown in the dark without soil at a constant temperature of 19C.

Avocet Infinite says the hydroponic grass is much more nutritious than normal livestock fodder.