Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The power of sludge

Interesting. Sewage into ethanol.

It's that dream come true - turning waste into something valuable. There has been a lot of talk about, and work toward, harnessing methane produced at landfills, manure pits and wastewater at slaughter houses, but now an e-mail has arrived touting the use of the solids in municipal wastewater to create energy.

Applied Cleantech and Qteros are announcing their “breakthrough Q Microbe technology” to turn a substance produced from municipal wastewater solids into cellulosic ethanol. That might disappoint researchers who have been focused on cellulosic feedstocks like waste wood chips, switch grass and stuff like sorghum that can grows like it's on steroids.

If you’ve ever wondered what to do with your city’s sewage sludge, this is apparently it.
The companies claim a yield of 120-135 gallons of ethanol for every ton of Recyllose, the feedstock they create from sludge.

There is, however, a problem of scale. The companies say a wastewater plant that handles the sewage of about 2 million people can supply a “smaller-scale” ethanol plant. So don’t be looking for any of this alchemy in the Panhandle, or a lot of places that don’t have a concentration of at least 2 million people.

Meanwhile, if people insist on ethanol as the best next-generation fuel to act as a bridge to some dreamed about solution to oil addiction, don’t stop growing that corn and grain sorghum.

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