Researchers Happier Than Pigs in...Renewable Fuel Sources

Posted: June 26, 2008

This is potentially important, so we're going to test our ability to write with a straight face…

Wired reports that researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have successfully created crude oil in a laboratory "by heating and pressurizing manure" from pigs. 

Eww.

On the other hand, that has to beat Middle Eastern oil as a fuel source.

The research is detailed in a study published this month in the journal Fuel.  "Boasting a manure-to-fuel efficiency of 70 percent, the researchers predicted that a single pig's production-cycle excretions could yield 21 gallons of crude oil and a neat per-pig profit of $10.  Multiply that by the 100 million pigs slaughtered each year in the U.S., and it's a billion-dollar industry." 

Delicious barbecue and guilt-free gas.  We had no idea what you could do for us, Porky.

The concept, however, "remains hypothetical."  The crude oil produced by the process "is at present less 'clean' than petroleum-derived fuel," according to study co-author and National Institute of Standards and Technology fuel expert Tom Bruno."  Bruno adds, "Of course that will change if the process is tweaked."

Kicking Tires notes that turning manure into fuel would also provide "a healthy profit for pig farmers, a way to use a major source of pollution that usually ends up in rivers, lakes and oceans, and a renewable drop in the bucket when it comes to reducing our foreign-oil dependence."  Perhaps more importantly, if researchers do manage to "tweak" to process as Bruno describes, they could "discover methods they can apply to other biofuels to make them burn cleaner." 

Yeah, other biofuels.  Let's go with that…

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