Saturday, November 14, 2009

Going Down The Drain

WastewaterSewage - human, agricultural and industrial - is an enormous untapped energy source. It represents some of the world's finest biological matter, and in America, as elsewhere, it is literally going down the drain.

Recognizing sewage as a resource and alternative source of energy, Israeli company Applied CleanTech is ready to commercialize its mechanical and chemical solution that separates sewage into raw materials like cellulose and oil. The company further aims to collect every bit of solid waste that ends up at the water treatment plant, and recycle it into valuable raw materials.

Applied CleanTech's sewage recycling system reduces a sewage treatment plant's solid waste output by about 60 percent. This means the company can increase treatment plant capacity so that towns and cities can handle population growth without building new plants.

Doing the math, about 40 to 50 percent of the solids in the sewage system are made from cellulose fibers. Taking into account that humans don't digest cellulose, and that numbers can change depending on whether the plant serves Manhattan or an industrial zone, about 10 to 15% of these cellulose fibers in sewage come from our excrement, while the rest - about 85% - come from toilet paper and other cloth fibers that are flushed away. Cellulose is a raw material that can undergo a chemical process to become a valuable biofuel known as ethanol.

Applied CleanTech also collects oil from water. The oil in the water poses a huge problem for farmers using recycled gray water for irrigation because it creates hydrophobic soil, which doesn't absorb water well.

The main issue with the wastewater industry is dealing with the formation of sludge. Sludge is costly to deal with and it limits the capacity of a treatment plant. The cellulose and the oil are the hard-to-digest materials in the treatment plant digesters. When they are extracted, the wastewater treatment becomes more efficient. This also means that carbon credits can be generated.

Applied CleanTech is based in Hadera, not far from Haifa, and employs a staff of six.

Source: Israel21c

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