UCC is looking at using grass to create ‘biogas’

ARE you regularly stuck with the problem of how to dump grass cuttings after cutting your lawn?

The Environmental Research Institute (ERI) at University College Cork is conducting research on how best grass cuttings or silage could be used to power transport in the future.

In Linkoping in Sweden, 65 buses, 600 cars, 10 waste collection lorries and a train are all powered by biogas — or belly gas — as it’s literally the methane from a cow’s stomach and entrails which is distilled to make biogas.

A tanker collects the organic sludge and makes the short journey to the biogas factory, where the stinking fuel is stewed gently for a month, before the methane can be drawn off.

Each cow provides enough gas to power the Linkoping biogas train for 2.5 miles.

In Austria, farmers use a grass digester to process biogas from silage and some even have a service stations adjacent to their land so the public can fill up their cars.

The same thing could happen in Ireland with the methane from grass cuttings and silage production. According to the ERI, just six hectares of grass could power a bus compared to the 24 hectares required using wheat-based ethanol.

According to the Director of the ERI, Dr Jerry

Murphy, wheat is also far more inefficient than biogas as 60% of its energy is used up in the production process. Biogas has a far superior energy balance.

Speaking at the Ethical Development Committee conference on BioFuels and Global Food Security –Are They Compatible?, Dr Murphy said grass cuttings from Cork city’s 300

hectacres of parklands could power nearly half of the city bus fleet — or 40 buses.

“Research is taking place around the world into what type of grass would be best suited. We’re are looking at the best type of reactor design to ensure maximum efficiency in the production process,” he said.

Dr Murphy also discussed using wind turbine electricity to power cars.


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