China has a new solution to their sludge problem: burn it for energy.
In Xiangyang, there is a factory that does just that. Taking waste from humans and animals, as well as grease from restaurants — fats, oils, and gas (FOG) — they are able to heat the mix, called ‘sludge’, to a point where the methane gas is released– a process called ‘co-digestion.’
Half of the resulting methane is used to power the plant itself, while the other half is processed into clean natural gas, which has a range of options for use.
Meanwhile, in Oregon, the same process is taking place as a joint effort with Clean Water Services, The Energy Trust of Oregon, and the Oregon Department of Energy. The treatment facility in Oregon, at Durham, has already tripled its renewable energy output utilizing this technique, and has reduced energy costs by a staggering $800,000.
What is yet to be seen is whether or not this massive reduction in cost will translate to the consumer.
Speaking with Chris Dearth of Clean Water Services, he said while there is nothing on the horizon as far as being able to scale down these massive plants to be able to attach them to homes for their personal power needs, that could certainly be a possibility. Dearth also said the reason it is not viable now is the costs associated with the scaling down, but as new technology arises, prices often drop.
Especially in a place like China, with such a huge percentage of the worlds population, and where so much human waste is created on a daily basis, this is an amazing breakthrough, and could really help solve China’s sludge problem.
Stateside we don’t have that same level of concern, as the United States’ population is about 1/4 of China’s, and is subject to much stricter regulations. Sludge, however, is a concern for any country. So being able to not only cut back on the amount of sludge stored, but being able to use sludge for energy, is a brown solution to a green question.
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