Methane Plane To Fly Again

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Methane is a renewable gas — a form of energy that is constantly being created by various mammals the world over. Four-stomached creatures such as cows are one of the main sources of biologically-derived methane. In fact, they create so much gas, research has shown all the ‘burner’ type stoves and ovens in North America could be powered by it. Trouble is, it isn’t all that capture-able from the source, or hundreds of millions of sources.


Humans too generate copius amounts, in what remarkably could be called both point and non-point sources. The points of issuance are many, but in total present a sort of network of constant generation. This field is global — wherever there are off-gassing humans (and cows, goats, etc.). Furthermore, some nations are gassier than others, depending on the
local cuisine and various customs, such as etiquette.

In an unincorporated area of the former Alsace-Lorraine, a pair of twin brothers named Norville and Wingate Smatterson have developed a small glider-like plane with a 40 HP gas-powered motor. It runs on methane or natural gas and the gas can be compressed. Compressing it allows more to be packed into a smallish cylinder on board the plane. Another advantage of using a non-liquid gas — it is much lighter than the petroleum-based version.

In their region, the number of cows outnumbers humans — as do the sheep — so, theoretically, the amount of methane that could be collected is huge. Unquestionably, it would be enough to fly an experimental aircraft for months at a time.

Norville explained, “That crux of the matter is simply devising a method of simultaneous, multiple source collection. It would be sort of like methane milking. We could set up methane dairies, of sorts, with groups of cows connected to tubes, and run the tubes to tanks. Of course, you need airtight valves and networks to successfully capture all the methane and then to store it under pressure and very carefully.”

The amount of methane that could be captured has been estimated to be enough to operate all the region’s vehicles, including school buses. The brothers Smatterson aren’t trying to develop a regional methane capturing infrastructure, saying they would leave that to government officials, because they seem to excel in such areas.

Two and half years ago, the twins got their methane glider to a point where each one could fly for about 15 minutes before they ran out of gas, because there wasn’t a way to replenish the fuel supply while in the air and they have a limited tank size. So, they hit upon the idea to hook themselves up to the fuel tank and see if they could add to it at the same rate the engine is using it. This way, they reason, they might be able to stay aloft for at least an hour.

“We don’t have reliable enough gas production at the moment — it really isn’t much more than a few blasts over several minutes, but with the right mixture of pre- and in-flight foods, we think we can optimize the gas flow. Politicians have no problem spewing in volume, so we believe there is no reason we can’t also,” elucidated Wingate.

There also may be methane enhancers or multipliers coming in the future based on research being conducted at the University of Elftirs in Brisbane. These chemicals could increase the power output of methane by at least ten times.

The brothers see commercial potential for their experimental aircraft, including longer passenger flights, with passenger participation in methane generation while en route.

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Jake Richardson

Hello, I have been writing online for some time, and enjoy the outdoors. If you like, you can follow me on Twitter:

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10 thoughts on “Methane Plane To Fly Again

  • I’m sorry to break it to you, it’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good, but most human beings don’t actually produce methane. If you’re emitting flammable gas it’s most likely hydrogen. On the whole, humans just don’t have the stomach for it. Now this is mostly good as hydrogen isn’t a major greenhouse gas like methane. (Rule of thumb: Straight molecules aren’t greenhouse gases, but kinky ones can be.) However, it can have an indirect effect by combining with OH in the atmosphere to make water, which means there is less OH around to break down methane. The solution? Don’t worry about it. The effect of your farts are insignificant. On a global scale that is. On a personal level they can be quite devastating.

    • While the point source (each person/cow/goat) are not useful. The collect droppings are. If you run all those dropping through a digest process. Not only do you get gas out you get compost that is a great soil enhancer. It also resolves a lot of the water pollution issues from large animal operations.

      • Yes, anyone who can get their poop together can certainly benefit from using a biodigester.

    • New headline on CleanTechnica……Power Your Hydrogen Car With Beans……..

      • If I powered my cow with beans I wonder how much methane I could get out of it? I could probably use it as a blow torch.

        • Possibly, but have you considered the difficulty of dragging a cow around as you sweat copper pipes?

          How about a smaller ruminant? A pygmy goat, for example.

          • Can you imagine trying to hold a pygmy goat distended with bean gas under one arm and trying to apply flame to it and all the while it is emitting shrill, high pitched bleating? People would think you were playing the bagpipes.

          • It could spare you some embarrassment by covering up your screams when you carelessly grab a hot pipe.

    • Ron,
      An even easier rule of thumb:

      Noble gases and homonuclear diatomic gases are not greenhouse gases, everything else can be (if the frequency is right).

      • Your rule of thumb is far superior to mine in every single way, TC, except for one glaring ommission. It does not contain the word, “kinky”.

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