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Sewage Plant Waste Water As A Huge New Energy Source

March 2, 2011

The latest episode in the American Chemical Society’s (ACS) award-winning podcast series, “Global Challenges/Chemistry Solutions,” focuses on the discovery that household sewage has far more potential as an alternative energy source than previously thought.

Scientists say the discovery, which increases the estimated potential energy in wastewater by almost 20 percent, could spur efforts to extract methane, hydrogen and other fuels from this vast and, as yet, untapped resource. Their report appears in ACS’ journal Environmental Science & Technology.

Elizabeth S. Heidrich of Newcastle University in the United Kingdom and colleagues note that sewage treatment plants in the United States use about 1.5 percent of the nation’s electrical energy to treat 12.5 trillion gallons of wastewater a year. “Instead of just processing and dumping this water, we suggest that in the future treatment facilities could convert its organic molecules into fuels, transforming their work from an energy drain to an energy source,” she said. “Based on our research, we estimate that one gallon of wastewater contains enough energy to power a 100-watt light bulb for five minutes.”

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