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Scientists come close to producing energy from the city sewage treatment facilities

Posted June 9, 2016

One of the major energy consumers in some of the big cities around the world is sewage treatment. It is important to clean the waste water in order not to do any damage to the environment. However, a research from the University of Queensland shows that there is hidden potential for energy production in the process of sewage treatment.

Cities produce a lot of wastewater and its treatment requires a lot of energy. Image credit:

Cities produce a lot of wastewater and its treatment requires a lot of energy. Image credit:

It is said that up to 20% of total electricity consumption in some cities is generated in sewage treatment facilities. But now scientists showed that some energy can be produced there too, by converting biogas into electricity. This potential is important to research, because cities do produce a lot of waste water – for example, the facility in Queensland where study has been conducted, gather 60 Olympic swimming pools of waste arrive every day.

The problem is that in order to remove nitrogen, most wastewater facilities use ethanol, which costs a lot of money and does not leave much room for energy production from the wastes. Now scientists came up with a way to recover more of methane gases, which are crucial for energy production from the sewage, without using ethanol to remove nitrogen. In this way it is possible to save more of the organic matter in the wastewater, which means that more biogas can be produced. In this way, these facilities could be producing energy, at least partially compensating for huge electricity consumption that they generate.

Not only this technology would help saving a lot of money for the cities around the world, but it is also more sustainable for the environment. Dr Shihu Hu, author of the study, said: “We expect this technology will be rapidly adopted. It means the energy-intensive water treatment industry can go from big energy consumers to being energy neutral”.

Having in mind, more and more people choose to live in urban environments, it is important to reduce energy consumption and make cities more environmentally friendly. And in this regard revolutionizing wastewater facilities, making them produce energy, is a big step to the right direction.


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