"In essence, we're harnessing lightning to zap livestock slurry and lock in harmful emissions," N2's Chris Puttick commented at one of the test farms in Buckinghamshire, England. At this site, 200 dairy cows are providing the raw material: dung.
A manure scraper collects all the excrement from the barn floor and deposits it in a pit where it is then moved through the N2 machine, housed in a standard-sized shipping container. Nitrogen from the air and a blast from a 50-kilowatt plasma torch are forced through the slurry 'locking in' both methane and ammonia emissions.
Nitrogen moderates methanogenesis
"When we add nitrogen from the air to the slurry, it changes the environment to stop methanogenesis basically. So it drops the pH down to just below six and we're catching that early. So it stops the breakdown of those methane microbes that then release the gas to the air," Puttick said, adding their patented technology is the only one of its kind. What comes out of the machine is an odourless brown liquid, called NEO -- a Nitrogen Enriched Organic fertilizer.
According to N2, their NEO has double the nitrogen content of regular nitrogen fertilizer; one of the most commonly used fertilizers to boost production of corn, canola and other crops. Puttick said independent tests showed their technology reduces methane emissions from slurry by 99%. It also cuts by 95% the emission of ammonia; described by the EU as one of the main sources of health-damaging air pollution.
On a 200-cow dairy farm this equates to "a reduction of 199 tons of carbon equivalent every year with one machine," said Puttick, adding that they're now looking to scale out the technology across the UK livestock sector, and have recently installed it at a pig farm.
A commercial model of the device is due for release in June 2022, in a modular "stackable" form; so bigger farms can add units to cope with their amount of slurry. Exact pricing is yet to be announced, but Puttick said capital investment for a farm will be similar to that of a medium-sized tractor.
The Global Methane Pledge
N2 Applied has received over 17 million euros (around the US $19.2 million) of funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation program. The Global Methane Pledge, launched at the COP26 summit
in Glasgow in November, committed to reducing methane by 30% by 2030.
Methane has a higher heat-trapping potential than CO2 but it breaks down in the atmosphere faster, meaning deep cuts in methane emissions by 2030 could have a rapid impact on slowing global warming.
A UN report in May said steep cuts in methane emissions this decade could avoid nearly 0.3 degrees Celsius of global warming by the 2040s.
IMAGE SOURCE: PIXABAY