DOE News
    Doe Science news source
    The DOE Science News Source is a Newswise initiative to promote research news from the Office of Science of the DOE to the public and news media.
    • 2016-11-02 12:05:46
    • Article ID: 664095

    Fuel From Sewage Is the Future – and It's Closer Than You Think

    Technology converts human waste into bio-based fuel

    • Credit: WE&RF

      Biocrude oil, produced from wastewater treatment plant sludge, looks and performs virtually like fossil petroleum.

    • Credit: WE&RF

      Sludge from Metro Vancouver’s wastewater treatment plant has been dewatered prior to conversion to biocrude oil at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

    RICHLAND, Wash. – It may sound like science fiction, but wastewater treatment plants across the United States may one day turn ordinary sewage into biocrude oil, thanks to new research at the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

    The technology, hydrothermal liquefaction, mimics the geological conditions the Earth uses to create crude oil, using high pressure and temperature to achieve in minutes something that takes Mother Nature millions of years. The resulting material is similar to petroleum pumped out of the ground, with a small amount of water and oxygen mixed in. This biocrude can then be refined using conventional petroleum refining operations.

    Wastewater treatment plants across the U.S. treat approximately 34 billion gallons of sewage every day. That amount could produce the equivalent of up to approximately 30 million barrels of oil per year. PNNL estimates that a single person could generate two to three gallons of biocrude per year.

    Sewage, or more specifically sewage sludge, has long been viewed as a poor ingredient for producing biofuel because it's too wet. The approach being studied by PNNL eliminates the need for drying required in a majority of current thermal technologies which historically has made wastewater to fuel conversion too energy intensive and expensive. HTL may also be used to make fuel from other types of wet organic feedstock, such as agricultural waste.

    What we flush can be converted into a biocrude oil with properties very similar to fossil fuels. PNNL researchers have worked out a process that does not require that sewage be dried before transforming it under heat and pressure to biocrude. Metro Vancouver in Canada hopes to build a demonstration plant.

    Using hydrothermal liquefaction, organic matter such as human waste can be broken down to simpler chemical compounds. The material is pressurized to 3,000 pounds per square inch — nearly one hundred times that of a car tire. Pressurized sludge then goes into a reactor system operating at about 660 degrees Fahrenheit. The heat and pressure cause the cells of the waste material to break down into different fractions — biocrude and an aqueous liquid phase.

    "There is plenty of carbon in municipal waste water sludge and interestingly, there are also fats," said Corinne Drennan, who is responsible for bioenergy technologies research at PNNL. "The fats or lipids appear to facilitate the conversion of other materials in the wastewater such as toilet paper, keep the sludge moving through the reactor, and produce a very high quality biocrude that, when refined, yields fuels such as gasoline, diesel and jet fuels."

    In addition to producing useful fuel, HTL could give local governments significant cost savings by virtually eliminating the need for sewage residuals processing, transport and disposal.

    "The best thing about this process is how simple it is," said Drennan. "The reactor is literally a hot, pressurized tube. We've really accelerated hydrothermal conversion technology over the last six years to create a continuous, and scalable process which allows the use of wet wastes like sewage sludge."

    An independent assessment for the Water Environment & Reuse Foundation calls HTL a highly disruptive technology that has potential for treating wastewater solids. WE&RF investigators noted the process has high carbon conversion efficiency with nearly 60 percent of available carbon in primary sludge becoming bio-crude. The report calls for further demonstration, which may soon be in the works.

    PNNL has licensed its HTL technology to Utah-based Genifuel Corporation, which is now working with Metro Vancouver, a partnership of 23 local authorities in British Columbia, Canada, to build a demonstration plant.

    "Metro Vancouver hopes to be the first wastewater treatment utility in North America to host hydrothermal liquefaction at one of its treatment plants," said Darrell Mussatto, chair of Metro Vancouver's Utilities Committee. "The pilot project will cost between $8 to $9 million (Canadian) with Metro Vancouver providing nearly one-half of the cost directly and the remaining balance subject to external funding."

    Once funding is in place, Metro Vancouver plans to move to the design phase in 2017, followed by equipment fabrication, with start-up occurring in 2018.

    "If this emerging technology is a success, a future production facility could lead the way for Metro Vancouver's wastewater operation to meet its sustainability objectives of zero net energy, zero odours and zero residuals," Mussatto added.

    In addition to the biocrude, the liquid phase can be treated with a catalyst to create other fuels and chemical products. A small amount of solid material is also generated, which contains important nutrients. For example, early efforts have demonstrated the ability to recover phosphorus, which can replace phosphorus ore used in fertilizer production.

    Development of the HTL process was funded by DOE's Bioenergy Technologies Office.

    The Water Environment & Reuse Foundation (WE&RF) is a 501c3 charitable corporation seeking to identify, support, and disseminate research that enhances the quality and reliability of water for natural systems and communities with an integrated approach to resource recovery and reuse; while facilitating interaction among practitioners, educators, researchers, decision makers, and the public.

    Metro Vancouver is a partnership of 21 municipalities, one Electoral Area and one Treaty First Nation that collaboratively plans for and delivers regional-scale services. Its core services are drinking water, wastewater treatment and solid waste management. Metro Vancouver also regulates air quality, plans for urban growth, manages a regional parks system and provides affordable housing. The regional district is governed by a Board of Directors of elected officials from each local authority.

    X
    X
    X
    • Filters

    • × Clear Filters
    Capturing 3D microstructures in real time

    Capturing 3D microstructures in real time

    Argonne researchers have invented a machine-learning based algorithm for quantitatively characterizing material microstructure in three dimensions and in real time. This algorithm applies to most structural materials of interest to industry.

    A new way to fine-tune exotic materials: Thin, stretch and clamp

    A new way to fine-tune exotic materials: Thin, stretch and clamp

    Turning a brittle oxide into a flexible membrane and stretching it on a tiny apparatus flipped it from a conducting to an insulating state and changed its magnetic properties. The technique can be used to study and design a broad range of materials for use in things like sensors and detectors.

    An innovative model of the dynamic magnetic field that surrounds Mercury

    An innovative model of the dynamic magnetic field that surrounds Mercury

    The first detailed model of the interaction between the solar wind and the magnetic field that surrounds Mercury, findings that could lead to improved understanding of the stronger field around Earth.

    Story Tips: Molding matter atom by atom and seeing inside uranium particles

    Story Tips: Molding matter atom by atom and seeing inside uranium particles

    Story Tips: Molding matter atom by atom and seeing inside uranium particles, from the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory

    Scientists See Energy Gap Modulations in a Cuprate Superconductor

    Scientists See Energy Gap Modulations in a Cuprate Superconductor

    Scientists studying high-Tc superconductors at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory have definitive evidence for the existence of a state of matter known as a pair density wave--first predicted by theorists some 50 years ago. Their results show that this phase coexists with superconductivity in a well-known bismuth-based copper-oxide superconductor.

    Uncertain Climate Future Could Disrupt Energy Systems

    Uncertain Climate Future Could Disrupt Energy Systems

    An international team of scientists has published a new study proposing an optimization methodology for designing climate-resilient energy systems and to help ensure that communities will be able to meet future energy needs given weather and climate variability. Their findings were recently published in Nature Energy.

    Argonne and CERN weigh in on the origin of heavy elements

    Argonne and CERN weigh in on the origin of heavy elements

    Nuclear physicists from Argonne National Laboratory led an international physics experiment conducted at CERN that utilizes novel techniques developed at Argonne to study the nature and origin of heavy elements in the universe.

    A new explanation for sudden collapses of heat in plasmas can help create fusion energy on Earth

    A new explanation for sudden collapses of heat in plasmas can help create fusion energy on Earth

    PPPL researchers find that jumbled magnetic fields in the core of fusion plasmas can cause the entire plasma discharge to suddenly collapse.

    Nanocages Trap and Separate Elusive Noble Gases

    Nanocages Trap and Separate Elusive Noble Gases

    Researchers have discovered how two-dimensional nanoscale cages trap some noble gases. These cages can trap atoms of argon, krypton, and xenon at above freezing temperatures. Noble gases are hard to trap using other methods because they condense at temperatures far below freezing.

    Parker Spiral Created in the Laboratory for the First Time Ever

    Parker Spiral Created in the Laboratory for the First Time Ever

    The Sun is a spinning ball of plasma that generates its own magnetic field. As the Sun spews out plasma, it generates solar wind that pulls the Sun's magnetic field along with it, twisting the magnetic field into what is called a Parker spiral. A recent experiment recreated this interaction at a small scale in the laboratory.


    • Filters

    • × Clear Filters
    Argonne's Paul Dickman honored with nuclear waste management achievement award

    Argonne's Paul Dickman honored with nuclear waste management achievement award

    Paul Dickman has been named a Waste Management Symposium Fellow for 2020.

    Using Fiber Optics to Advance Safe and Renewable Energy

    Using Fiber Optics to Advance Safe and Renewable Energy

    Fiber optic cables, it turns out, can be incredibly useful scientific sensors. Researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have studied them for use in carbon sequestration, groundwater mapping, earthquake detection, and monitoring of Arctic permafrost thaw. Now they have been awarded new grants to develop fiber optics for two novel uses: monitoring offshore wind operations and underground natural gas storage.

    Brookhaven Lab's Lijun Wu Receives 2020 Chuck Fiori Award

    Brookhaven Lab's Lijun Wu Receives 2020 Chuck Fiori Award

    For the past 20 years, Wu has been advancing quantitative electron diffraction to study batteries, catalysts, and other energy materials.

    Jefferson Lab Temporarily Suspends Operations

    Jefferson Lab Temporarily Suspends Operations

    In an effort to minimize the risk to the Jefferson Lab workforce and in keeping with recommendations from national, state, and local authorities, the Department of Energy's Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility is temporarily suspending operations.

    Department of Energy to Provide $60 Million for Science Computing Teams

    The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced a plan to provide $60 million to establish multidisciplinary teams to develop new tools and techniques to harness supercomputers for scientific discovery.

    Fermilab, UNICAMP and Sao Paulo Research Foundation collaborate on major international projects for neutrino research

    Fermilab, UNICAMP and Sao Paulo Research Foundation collaborate on major international projects for neutrino research

    Under a new agreement, the University of Campinas and the Sao Paulo Research Foundation will play important roles in the Long-Baseline Neutrino Facility and the international Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment, hosted by Fermilab.

    New $21.4 million U.S.-Israel center aims to develop water-energy technologies

    New $21.4 million U.S.-Israel center aims to develop water-energy technologies

    A U.S.-Israel team that includes researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory has received $21.4 million to develop new technologies to help solve global water challenges.

    Argonne's Valerii Vinokur awarded Fritz London Prize

    Argonne's Valerii Vinokur awarded Fritz London Prize

    Valerii Vinokur, a senior scientist and distinguished fellow at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory, has been awarded the Fritz London Memorial Prize for his work in condensed matter and theoretical physics.

    Register to Join a Special April 16 Media Tour of a Telescope Instrument that Will Create a 3D Map of Millions of Galaxies

    Register to Join a Special April 16 Media Tour of a Telescope Instrument that Will Create a 3D Map of Millions of Galaxies

    Members of the media are invited to attend a mid-April dedication of the Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument (DESI), which is scheduled to begin its five-year mission to construct a 3D map of the universe in the coming months.

    Department of Energy to Provide $100 Million for Solar Fuels Research

    The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced a plan to provide up to $100 million over five years for research on artificial photosynthesis for the production of fuels from sunlight.


    • Filters

    • × Clear Filters
    Harvesting Energy from Light using Bio-inspired Artificial Cells

    Harvesting Energy from Light using Bio-inspired Artificial Cells

    Scientists designed and connected two different artificial cells to each other to produce molecules called ATP (adenosine triphosphate).

    Engineering Living Scaffolds for Building Materials

    Engineering Living Scaffolds for Building Materials

    Bone and mollusk shells are composite systems that combine living cells and inorganic components. This allows them to regenerate and change structure while also being very strong and durable. Borrowing from this amazing complexity, researchers have been exploring a new class of materials called engineered living materials (ELMs).

    Excavating Quantum Information Buried in Noise

    Excavating Quantum Information Buried in Noise

    Researchers developed two new methods to assess and remove error in how scientists measure quantum systems. By reducing quantum "noise" - uncertainty inherent to quantum processes - these new methods improve accuracy and precision.

    How Electrons Move in a Catastrophe

    How Electrons Move in a Catastrophe

    Lanthanum strontium manganite (LSMO) is a widely applicable material, from magnetic tunnel junctions to solid oxide fuel cells. However, when it gets thin, its behavior changes for the worse. The reason why was not known. Now, using two theoretical methods, a team determined what happens.

    When Ions and Molecules Cluster

    When Ions and Molecules Cluster

    How an ion behaves when isolated within an analytical instrument can differ from how it behaves in the environment. Now, Xue-Bin Wang at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory devised a way to bring ions and molecules together in clusters to better discover their properties and predict their behavior.

    Tune in to Tetrahedral Superstructures

    Tune in to Tetrahedral Superstructures

    Shape affects how the particles fit together and, in turn, the resulting material. For the first time, a team observed the self-assembly of nanoparticles with tetrahedral shapes.

    Tracing Interstellar Dust Back to the Solar System's Formation

    Tracing Interstellar Dust Back to the Solar System's Formation

    This study is the first to confirm dust particles pre-dating the formation of our solar system. Further study of these materials will enable a deeper understanding of the processes that formed and have since altered them.

    Investigating Materials that Can Go the Distance in Fusion Reactors

    Investigating Materials that Can Go the Distance in Fusion Reactors

    Future fusion reactors will require materials that can withstand extreme operating conditions, including being bombarded by high-energy neutrons at high temperatures. Scientists recently irradiated titanium diboride (TiB2) in the High Flux Isotope Reactor (HFIR) to better understand the effects of fusion neutrons on performance.

    Better 3-D Imaging of Tumors in the Breast with Less Radiation

    Better 3-D Imaging of Tumors in the Breast with Less Radiation

    In breast cancer screening, an imaging technique based on nuclear medicine is currently being used as a successful secondary screening tool alongside mammography to improve the accuracy of the diagnosis. Now, a team is hoping to improve this imaging technique.

    Microbes are Metabolic Specialists

    Microbes are Metabolic Specialists

    Scientists can use genetic information to measure if microbes in the environment can perform specific ecological roles. Researchers recently analyzed the genomes of over 6,000 microbial species.


    Spotlight

    Barbara Garcia: A first-generation college student spends summer doing research at PPPL
    Tuesday September 24, 2019, 04:05 PM

    Barbara Garcia: A first-generation college student spends summer doing research at PPPL

    Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory

    Argonne organization's scholarship fund blazes STEM pathway
    Tuesday September 17, 2019, 05:05 PM

    Argonne organization's scholarship fund blazes STEM pathway

    Argonne National Laboratory

    Brookhaven Lab, Suffolk Girl Scouts Launch Patch Program
    Friday September 13, 2019, 11:30 AM

    Brookhaven Lab, Suffolk Girl Scouts Launch Patch Program

    Brookhaven National Laboratory

    From an acoustic levitator to a
    Thursday September 12, 2019, 03:05 PM

    From an acoustic levitator to a "Neutron Bloodhound" robot, hands-on research inspires PPPL's summer interns

    Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory

    Brookhaven Lab Celebrates the Bright Future of its 2019 Interns
    Friday August 30, 2019, 10:00 AM

    Brookhaven Lab Celebrates the Bright Future of its 2019 Interns

    Brookhaven National Laboratory

    PPPL apprenticeship program offers young people chance to earn while they learn high-tech careers
    Thursday August 01, 2019, 12:05 PM

    PPPL apprenticeship program offers young people chance to earn while they learn high-tech careers

    Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory

    Creating a diverse pipeline
    Friday July 19, 2019, 01:05 PM

    Creating a diverse pipeline

    Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory

    JSA Awards Graduate Fellowships for Research at Jefferson Lab
    Monday July 08, 2019, 03:00 PM

    JSA Awards Graduate Fellowships for Research at Jefferson Lab

    Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility

    ILSAMP Symposium showcases benefits for diverse students, STEM pipeline
    Monday May 20, 2019, 12:05 PM

    ILSAMP Symposium showcases benefits for diverse students, STEM pipeline

    Argonne National Laboratory

    Integrating Scientific Computing into Science Curricula
    Monday May 13, 2019, 11:05 AM

    Integrating Scientific Computing into Science Curricula

    Brookhaven National Laboratory

    Students from Minnesota and Massachusetts Win DOE's 29th National Science Bowl(r)
    Monday April 29, 2019, 02:05 PM

    Students from Minnesota and Massachusetts Win DOE's 29th National Science Bowl(r)

    Department of Energy, Office of Science

    DOE's Science Graduate Student Research Program Selects 70 Students to Pursue Research at DOE Laboratories
    Friday April 12, 2019, 03:05 PM

    DOE's Science Graduate Student Research Program Selects 70 Students to Pursue Research at DOE Laboratories

    Department of Energy, Office of Science

    Young Women's Conference in STEM seeks to change the statistics one girl at a time
    Thursday March 28, 2019, 03:05 PM

    Young Women's Conference in STEM seeks to change the statistics one girl at a time

    Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory

    Students team with Argonne scientists and engineers to learn about STEM careers
    Tuesday March 12, 2019, 05:05 PM

    Students team with Argonne scientists and engineers to learn about STEM careers

    Argonne National Laboratory

    Lynbrook High wins 2019 SLAC Regional Science Bowl competition
    Wednesday February 13, 2019, 02:05 PM

    Lynbrook High wins 2019 SLAC Regional Science Bowl competition

    SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

    Equipping the next generation for a technological revolution
    Thursday January 24, 2019, 01:05 PM

    Equipping the next generation for a technological revolution

    Argonne National Laboratory

    Chemistry intern inspired by Argonne's real-world science
    Friday January 18, 2019, 05:05 PM

    Chemistry intern inspired by Argonne's real-world science

    Argonne National Laboratory

    Chasing a supernova
    Friday January 18, 2019, 04:05 PM

    Chasing a supernova

    Argonne National Laboratory

    Argonne intern streamlines the beamline
    Tuesday January 08, 2019, 02:05 PM

    Argonne intern streamlines the beamline

    Argonne National Laboratory

    Research on Light-Matter Interaction Could Lead to Improved Electronic and Optoelectronic Devices
    Thursday October 11, 2018, 04:00 PM

    Research on Light-Matter Interaction Could Lead to Improved Electronic and Optoelectronic Devices

    Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

    Innovating Our Energy Future
    Wednesday October 03, 2018, 07:05 PM

    Innovating Our Energy Future

    Oregon State University, College of Engineering

    Physics graduate student takes her thesis research to a Department of Energy national lab
    Tuesday October 02, 2018, 03:05 PM

    Physics graduate student takes her thesis research to a Department of Energy national lab

    University of Alabama at Birmingham

    Friday September 21, 2018, 01:05 PM

    "Model" students enjoy Argonne campus life

    Argonne National Laboratory

    Writing Code for a More Skilled and Diverse STEM Workforce
    Thursday September 06, 2018, 01:05 PM

    Writing Code for a More Skilled and Diverse STEM Workforce

    Brookhaven National Laboratory

    New graduate student summer school launches at Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory
    Tuesday September 04, 2018, 11:30 AM

    New graduate student summer school launches at Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory

    Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory

    The Gridlock State
    Friday August 31, 2018, 06:05 PM

    The Gridlock State

    California State University (CSU) Chancellor's Office

    Meet Jasmine Hatcher and Trishelle Copeland-Johnson
    Friday August 31, 2018, 02:05 PM

    Meet Jasmine Hatcher and Trishelle Copeland-Johnson

    Brookhaven National Laboratory

    Argonne hosts Modeling, Experimentation and Validation Summer School
    Friday August 24, 2018, 11:05 AM

    Argonne hosts Modeling, Experimentation and Validation Summer School

    Argonne National Laboratory

    Students affected by Hurricane Maria bring their research to SLAC
    Wednesday August 22, 2018, 01:05 PM

    Students affected by Hurricane Maria bring their research to SLAC

    SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

    Brookhaven Lab Pays Tribute to 2018 Summer Interns
    Wednesday August 22, 2018, 10:05 AM

    Brookhaven Lab Pays Tribute to 2018 Summer Interns

    Brookhaven National Laboratory

    Changing How Buildings Are Made
    Monday August 20, 2018, 12:05 PM

    Changing How Buildings Are Made

    Washington University in St. Louis

    CSUMB Selected to Host Architecture at Zero Competition in 2019
    Thursday August 16, 2018, 12:05 PM

    CSUMB Selected to Host Architecture at Zero Competition in 2019

    California State University, Monterey Bay

    Department of Energy Invests $64 Million in Advanced Nuclear Technology
    Friday July 20, 2018, 03:00 PM

    Department of Energy Invests $64 Million in Advanced Nuclear Technology

    Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

    Professor Miao Yu Named the Priti and Mukesh Chatter '82 Career Development Professor
    Thursday July 19, 2018, 05:00 PM

    Professor Miao Yu Named the Priti and Mukesh Chatter '82 Career Development Professor

    Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

    2018 RHIC & AGS Annual Users' Meeting: 'Illuminating the QCD Landscape'
    Tuesday July 03, 2018, 11:05 AM

    2018 RHIC & AGS Annual Users' Meeting: 'Illuminating the QCD Landscape'

    Brookhaven National Laboratory

    Argonne welcomes <em>The Martian</em> author Andy Weir
    Friday June 29, 2018, 06:05 PM

    Argonne welcomes The Martian author Andy Weir

    Argonne National Laboratory

    Creating STEM Knowledge and Innovations to Solve Global Issues Like Water, Food, and Energy
    Monday June 18, 2018, 09:55 AM

    Creating STEM Knowledge and Innovations to Solve Global Issues Like Water, Food, and Energy

    Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy (IMSA)

    Professor Emily Liu Receives $1.8 Million DoE Award for Solar Power Systems Research
    Friday June 15, 2018, 10:00 AM

    Professor Emily Liu Receives $1.8 Million DoE Award for Solar Power Systems Research

    Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

    Celebrating 40 years of empowerment in science
    Thursday June 07, 2018, 03:05 PM

    Celebrating 40 years of empowerment in science

    Argonne National Laboratory

    Introducing Graduate Students Across the Globe to Photon Science
    Monday May 07, 2018, 10:30 AM

    Introducing Graduate Students Across the Globe to Photon Science

    Brookhaven National Laboratory

    Students from Massachusetts and Washington Win DOE's 28th National Science Bowl(r)
    Wednesday May 02, 2018, 04:05 PM

    Students from Massachusetts and Washington Win DOE's 28th National Science Bowl(r)

    Department of Energy, Office of Science

    The Race for Young Scientific Minds
    Thursday April 12, 2018, 07:05 PM

    The Race for Young Scientific Minds

    Argonne National Laboratory

    Q&A: Al Ashley Reflects on His Efforts to Diversify SLAC and Beyond
    Wednesday March 14, 2018, 02:05 PM

    Q&A: Al Ashley Reflects on His Efforts to Diversify SLAC and Beyond

    SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

    Insights on Innovation in Energy, Humanitarian Aid Highlight UVA Darden's Net Impact Week
    Thursday February 15, 2018, 12:05 PM

    Insights on Innovation in Energy, Humanitarian Aid Highlight UVA Darden's Net Impact Week

    University of Virginia Darden School of Business

    Ivy League Graduate, Writer and Activist with Dyslexia Visits CSUCI to Reframe the Concept of Learning Disabilities
    Friday February 09, 2018, 11:05 AM

    Ivy League Graduate, Writer and Activist with Dyslexia Visits CSUCI to Reframe the Concept of Learning Disabilities

    California State University, Channel Islands





    Showing results

    0-4 Of 2215