Research: Study takes step toward low-emissions future with cow gut tech analysis

He’s investigating whether waste plastics can be diverted from landfill to help power our vehicles, and now a CQUniversity researcher has helped shape an Australian low-emissions future – by analysing technology to reduce cows’ burps.
calendar icon 26 May 2021
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Phd student Md Hazrat Ali pictured with laboratory testing equipment.

Engineering PhD candidate Md Hazrat Ali recently contributed to Australia’s first Low Emissions Technology Statement, released by Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction Angus Taylor in September 2020.

As part of the Australian Government’s Technology Investment Roadmap Taskforce, Mr Hazrat assessed carbon abatement potential of feed and feed supplements, to reduce “enteric emissions” in cattle – that is, methane-producing burps.

The Rockhampton-based researcher completed the work during a three-month internship with the Australian Government’s Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources, as the sole regionally-based contributor.

“My work was definitely relevant to this part of Australia, and I had three months to review the technology and present my findings to a team of experts,” he explained.

“Enteric fermentation from livestock has been the main source of greenhouse gas emissions from Australia’s agriculture sector, and cattle are the biggest producers.”

With Australian beef production forecast to increase by 16 per cent by 2030, Mr Hazrat said achieving carbon neutrality for the sector will rely on effective technological changes.

“I performed a detailed analysis on a number of technologies including abatement potential of livestock emission reduction with alternative feeds and feed supplements. This work along with reports from others was used by the Taskforce to assess and categorise technologies.”

Mr Hazrat said his experience researching biofuel with CQUniversity’s Clean Energy Academy helped with the Low Emissions Technology Statement study.

“Understanding how microbial systems work within biofuel production helped with assessing the impact of different feed and feed supplements, which can impact the microbe to reduce enteric methane produced in the cow’s stomach,” he said.

Mr Hazrat explained that Australia can tackle the methane production from the grazing cattle by producing more efficient feed.

He found that cultivating legume fodder crop Leucaena along with local pasture could reduce required grazing area for cattle by 50 per cent per head, and introducing Australian Red Seaweed to dairy cattle diets could reduce emissions by 40 per cent.

“For instance, cultivating Leucaena along with local pasture is a promising and suitable improved feed options for the Northern Australian beef industry, and would reduce required grazing area by 50 per cent per head, with increased productivity as well,” he said.

Australia’s Chief Scientist Alan Finkel congratulated the team, saying the release of the Low Emissions Technology Statement was “our biggest step yet in the transition to a low emissions future for Australia”.

“The taskforce and the panel worked well together because of the good will, native intelligence and domain knowledge of all the participants,” said Professor Finkel, who personally reviewed Mr Hazrat’s report.

On his internship final report, Department supervisors commented: “Hazrat’s animal feed and supplements work brings together research that otherwise was not readily available to the Department. It has given an idea of the opportunities to reduce cattle and sheep enteric emissions in the Australian herd and helped estimate the abatement and economic potential of these technologies, filling an information gap for our project.”

Mr Hazrat, who is finalising his PhD research, has been investigating use of waste plastics in biofuels.

The project is identifying solvents that can properly dissolve waste plastics at a lower cost than the current recycling pathways, to reduce harmful gas emissions and improving engine performance.

He completed the internship with the Australian Government through the Australian Postgraduate Research Intern program, which connects PhD students with industry through short-term internships, enabling them to apply their professional and research skills and empowering them to thrive in a practical industry-standard research environment.

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