Cow manure methane powers pot hole repairs

10 December 2019 | By Neil Gerrard

Contractor Cormac is trialling road maintenance machinery powered with manure from Cornish cows.

The equipment, fuelled by biomethane, is carrying out road repairs for Cornwall County Council.

Cormac, an arm's length management organisation wholly owned by the local authority, is working with local clean energy company Bennamann on the pilot, which has involved converting one of its road surfacing machines to run on the alternative fuel source. 

Biomethane is a naturally occurring gas that is produced when organic matter such as plants, manure, sewage and food breaks down. Methane is typically a harmful greenhouse gas that contributes towards global warming, however by capturing it from the material before it is emitted to the atmosphere, it can be used as a renewable fuel instead.

During the trial, operatives Simon Sweet and Paul Matthews used the converted pothole repair trailer to heat the asphalt to around 130-140°C, the same temperature they usually use to ready the materials to repair the surface of the road.

While testing is still ongoing, initial data suggests that each converted unit could potentially reduce CO2e emissions by five tonnes per year. Additionally, biomethane has a 10% higher energy density than propane, the fossil fuel normally used to heat the hot box, improving fuel efficiency.

Cormac said it aimed to expand the trial over the coming months, with biomethan showing potential for equipment or vehicles that are unlikely to become electrically powered in the near future due to financial or technological constraints.  

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