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Car Fueled With Biogas From Cow Manure: WWU Students Convert Methane Into Natural Gas

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In: The Bellingham Herald (Washington)
by Caleb Heeringa
April 22, 2007 Sunday

Apr. 22--Manure may be the answer to rising gasoline prices.

Twelve Western Washington University students have developed the Viking 32, a vehicle powered entirely by biogas derived from livestock waste.

The students, part of WWU's Vehicle Research Institute, will take their creation to Washington, D.C., for the EPA's third annual P3 competition Tuesday and Wednesday. The event is a contest among college students to develop technology powered by renewable resources.

The students, who have worked for two years on the vehicle, will also show off their method of converting biomethane -- the gas byproduct of decomposed livestock manure -- into natural gas.

"One farm could power half of all of the (Whatcom Transportation Authority) buses," said Eric Leonhardt, the group's director.

The group has been working on removing the hydrogen sulfide and excess carbon dioxide from raw biogas they receive from the Vander Haak Dairy in Lynden. What's left is pipelinequality natural gas that would cost one-fifth as much as gasoline, Leonhardt said.

The Viking 32 was designed around an engine from a Honda Civic GX, a commercially available vehicle that runs on compressed natural gas and is the cleanest of any internal combustion engine, Leonhardt said.

The students will be judged based on their understanding of the technology and the potential impact of the project, Leonhardt said. If they win, the group would receive up to $75,000 in grants to help them market their designs.

Leonhardt said their next step in the project is to power a bus with biomethane and prove that the technology could work for car buyers.

"At $3 for gas, we think it's commercially viable," Leonhardt said. "If it gets to $4 it should be easy."

Reach Caleb Heeringa at 715-2220 or caleb.heeringa@bellinghamherald.com.

Copyright © 2007, The Bellingham Herald, Wash. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Business News.

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