Living Green: PNNL converting methane into a usable source of fu - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Living Green: PNNL converting methane into a usable source of fuel

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RICHLAND, WA - "From Moo to Goo." It's a new system that scientists at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland have developed to turn methane into a useful substance.

"And inside here we grow the goo, the green goo," said Hans Bernstein,Lead Scientist with PNNL.

"Both methane and carbon dioxide are major contributors of greenhouse gas, but it's also sort of a wasted resource that we are able to convert into microbial biomass, and from the microbial biomass we can turn that info fuels or other valued products," said Bernstein.

And it turns out PNNL is positioned in one of the most ideal places for this study.

"Washington state is a great place to do this," Bernstein said. "If you go down to the Yakima Valley and you look around, you're going to see agriculture everywhere. Well with agriculture there's waste. With your cows, well the cows make manure and that manure has to go somewhere."

Scientists have been converting methane, a much more potent pollutant that carbon dioxide, into microbial biomass for decades, most of the time turning it into electricity. But PNNL scientists are doing it a little differently. Their project is converting the methane into something that can actually be stored.

"The challenges with solar and wind is you create this energy, where are you going to store it? With this we store it in biomass which can then be upgraded into a fuel or other value added compounds," said Bernstein.

So how hoes the process work? It starts with you.

Every day, you eat food and you throw away whatever is left. Well, there's carbon in that food. Where does the carbon go? To a landfill. It decomposes into gasses, mostly methane, which then becomes a wasted resource. Well, scientists at PNNL have come up with a way to convert what was once harmful for the environment, into something much more valuable.

"So we can take the food that you're throwing away into your garbage can and turn that directly into the gasoline that goes in your car," said Bernstein.

The end product can also be converted into plastics or even cattle feed, adding to the portfolio of renewable resources. Solar, wind, and green goo.