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October 27, 2005

Take the "methane train"

The Swedes have announced the start of the first train run on biogas, made of organic waste from cows. (What's a "bioga"? Anything like a bialy? Only kidding, I think.)

The world's first train to run on biogas, a renewable energy source made up of organic waste from cows, has been inaugurated in Sweden according to AFP and BBC News. This train will make a daily trip between Link√∂ping, just south of Stockholm, and V√§stervik, 80 kilometers away on the Baltic coast. It can seat 60 passengers in a single car and could run for 600 kilometers at a maximum speed of 130 kilometers an hour. Svensk Biogas, which developed the train for a cost of 10 million kronor (the equivalent of €1.05 million or US $1.26 million), replaced the diesel engines of an old Fiat locomotive by two Volvo gas engines.
The methane extraction process is delightful, as the BBC reports:
Inside the abattoir at Swedish Meats in Linkoping, the cows stood patiently, occasionally nuzzling the lens of our camera.

From there, it was a short walk past the white-walled butchery, down the steps to the basement where the raw material for biogas, slid greasily down a chute.

Still bubbling and burping, and carpeting you with an acrid stench, came the organs and the fat and the guts. Enough, from one cow, to get you about 4km (2.5 miles) on the train.

A tanker collects the organic sludge and makes the short journey to the biogas factory, where the stinking fuel is stewed gently for a month, before the methane can be drawn off.
There are photos at both links.

What I don't understand is why you can't just fit cows with a methane-collecting diapers, the way we do with politicians in Washington. It's an inexhaustible source of pungent gas.

(Hat tip: fee simple)