Wetenschap - 30 januari 2014

Hot air

Albert Sikkema

A cowshed exploded last week in Rasdorf in Germany, and local police cite an accumulation of methane gas from cow farts as the cause.

Can a shed be blown up by methane gas? In theory, yes, says Jan Dijkstra of the Animal Nutrition chair group. ‘But then the methane concentration needs to be between 5 and 15 percent.’ Even in old-fashioned, closed sheds, it would seem to him difficult to build up these kinds of concentrations just from cows. So Dijkstra suspects that methane from a manure cellar must have penetrated the shed. Besides, he says, it could never be farts that caused the explosion. ‘Ninety eight percent of the methane comes from the cow’s burps. Only two percent comes out of the cow’s rear end.’