Laboratory Products

Poo Power: Is Faecal Matter the Future?

Jan 10 2018 Read 836 Times

With fossil fuels running low and the human population increasing by the second, the search is on to find the most economically and environmentally sufficient source of energy. The limited amount of space for waste and landfill within the UK means that it is now time to focus on the recycling of waste, rather than the storage of it.

Meanwhile, the UK produces a massive 1.73 million tons of sewage every year… I think you see where we’re going. Read on to see how sewage can be used for power.

How can poo produce power?

With so much waste being produced, there’s clearly huge potential to generate a substantial amount of energy if handled properly. And the use of animal and human waste as a source of energy is nothing new. The Chinese have been using covered sewage tanks dating back to the 13th century as a source of energy, and Bombay leper colonies in 1859 were pumping sewage through anaerobic digestion plants to create power.

The process isn’t as brain-numbing nor stomach-churning as you may think. Once the sewage has been separated into waste and clean water, anaerobic digesters break down the leftover waste into what can be described as odourless sludge and methane. Analysis of large biological samples is one of the topics covered in the article ‘Ocean-Going Lab...The Real Test of a Nutrient Analyser’. The waste solids are passed on to create fuel and fertiliser while the methane is passed through a biogas plant where impurities are removed and a ‘gas-like’ smell is added. This biomethane is then fed back into the national network.

The reality of the power of poo

The idea of using human faeces as a source of energy in the UK is becoming more of a reality as the 2020 target of 15% of energy consumption to come from renewable sources is rapidly approaching. Both Northumbrian and Yorkshire Water have made it their mission to recycle their sewage in the form of power with an £8m gas to grid plant in Howden and a £72m investment project under way in Leeds.

The poo-power treatment facility under construction in Leeds promises the ability to convert 131 tonnes of sludge into power each day, reducing the site’s carbon emission by 15% and providing enough power for 8000 homes. Although the hefty price tag, over time the power of poo may be enough to not only cut down the UK’s carbon footprint, but also create a multimillion pound industry.

So, in a world run by telecommunication and pharmaceutical stocks and shares, would you invest in poo?

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