Transport Theory

Could we use sewage to power our cars?

Posting in Energy

A Southern California waste treatment plant has implemented pioneering technology that could allow us to fill up our vehicles on repurposed human waste.

We're pretty good about recycling our trash: our soda cans, paper, and plastic, can all be re-purposed and reused down the road. But what if we could make use of another kind of waste: our sewage?

A Southern California waste treatment plant is doing just that. The Department of Transportation recently commissioned the world's first tri-generation fuel cell and hydrogen energy station, using biogas to produce electricity, heat, and hydrogen. It's location? The Orange County Sanitation District's wastewater treatment plant, in Fountain Valley, C.A.

Using a system developed by FuelCell Energy, methane gas produced by sewage in the treatment facility is put through a fuel cell and reformed into hydrogen. The electricity produced by the fuel cell is used to power the treatment plant, while leftover hydrogen is sent to a hydrogen fueling station, managed by Air Products, that will be able to fuel between 25 and 50 fuel cell electric cars per day.

“This is the epitome of sustainability by taking a human waste and transforming it into electricity which we need, and transportation fuel that we need, as well as thermal product heat that could serve the process of transforming the feed waste into productive products,” said Professor Scott Samuelsen, director of the National Fuel Cell Research Center at the University of California, Irvine, in a statement from Air Products. “This project is at the nexus of the challenge for the next millennium associating how we handle in concert transportation, energy and water resources.”

This could give 'recycling' a whole new meaning.

Photo: Air Products

via [EarthTechling]

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Channtal Fleischfresser

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Channtal Fleischfresser has worked for The Economist, WNET/Channel 13, Al Jazeera English, Wall Street Journal and Associated Press. She holds degrees from the University of Pennsylvania and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. She is based in New York. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure