That smell in the distance? That may be the smell of a new source of renewable energy for your house. Yes, farm manure is being looked at as a viable option to sustainably heat homes, communities and even power trucks.

According to new research done at the University of Waterloo, this technology could apply to both cow and pig manure, as well as manure at landfill sites.

The chemical process to create energy this way is called methanation, and involves mixing the manure with hydrogen, then running it through a catalytic converter. Then, a reaction in the converter would produce methane from carbon dioxide into the biogas.

“This is how we can make the transition from fossil-based energy to renewable energy using existing infrastructure, which is a tremendous advantage,” said David Simakov, a professor who collaborates with fellow chemical engineering professor Michael Fowler.

The net result would be renewable natural gas that yields almost all of manure’s energy potential and also efficiently stores electricity, but has only a fraction of the greenhouse gas impact of manure used as fertilizer, the Waterloo researchers said.

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