Innovative wastewater treatment system removes methane and generates electricity

For advanced and wealthy countries, conventional wastewater treatment systems are seen as a necessary necessity to maintain good hygiene. The public health benefits far outweigh the relatively high cost and environmental impact of sludge disposal.

But for countries without big coffers, wastewater treatment plants represent “an expensive and inaccessible pipe dream,” according to Dr Sebastien Tilmans, executive director of the Codiga Resource Recovery Center at Stanford University, s ‘voicing in an interview earlier this year. with Gate 5 Energy Partners Inc., a sustainable energy company.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

“Conventional treatment considers wastewater to be a hazardous substance requiring mitigation measures. Rather, we need to understand wastewater as a raw material ore with impurities, ”said Tilmans. Traditional processing plants spend “energy (often derived from fossil fuels) to destroy renewable biomass energy. If we focused on harnessing this renewable energy instead, we would do a lot better. “

A one-of-a-kind Door 5 garbage disposal system that generates enough electricity to pay for will soon put Tilman’s theories to the test of the real world.

On Wednesday, the Gate 5 system, which dries and then burns solid waste, received a $ 1.6 million grant from the California Energy Commission “to build and demonstrate an innovative wastewater treatment and resource recovery system in the Santa Margarita Water District, Chiquita Water Reclamation Facility in Orange County, Calif., ”according to a press release.

Thanks to the grant, Charlene Rainey, director of investor relations at Gate 5, said that a demonstration system, the first ever built, will be installed at the University of California at Irvine. Construction will take about 18 months and will eliminate the need for the university to dispose of food waste.

The Gate 5 system has notable advantages over current processes as it can produce a net surplus of energy and has the potential to turn the Chiquita WRF into a net exporter of energy, ”said Santa Margarita aquatic district Deputy General Director Don Bunts in a statement.

Notably, Tilmans and a team of researchers from Stanford University, working in partnership with MicroMedia Filtration Inc. and Gate 5, won a US Department of Energy Water Resource Recovery Award last year for their article, “Get it Fast, Get it Early: Extracting Solids from Wastewater to Maximize Energy Recovery.” The article explains how filters can be used to separate solid waste early in the treatment process before it is burned for energy.

“The solids in wastewater have tremendous energy. Pound for pound, dry human faeces have more energy than charcoal. Diversion of the solids early in the process makes it easier to dry them or manage them through other energy extraction processes, ”said Tilmans.

According to Rainey, the technological innovation of Gate 5, which has been in development for about a decade, has been accelerated by recent legislation. California placed a restriction on the amount of methane that could be produced, even though “they knew no one had a solution for what to do with this inevitable waste,” Rainey said.

Simultaneously, the state Department of Energy and its Energy Commission launched a grant competition, offering monetary rewards for promising solutions. This was the opportunity that Gate 5 needed. Since launching in 2010, Rainey said the California energy company has obtained patents for the technology in eight countries (including the United States), as well as local approvals in various California jurisdictions, including for the quality of the technology. air in Orange County, which has some of the highest standards in the country.

“We just needed the subsidy and the funding,” Rainey said, noting that in addition to power generation, the system creates “clean air and clean water – the water that comes from it. sort is distilled from the dryer – then the only other product at the end, instead of sludge, is clean ash. And this ash can be sold to replace coal ash to make asphalt or cement .

To this end, the Gate 5 system is suitable for existing wastewater treatment systems with a small footprint.

It’s built “where the trucks load the sludge and drive that sludge hundreds of miles to landfills and landfills,” Rainey said. Once the solid waste is filtered using a Micro Media Filtrations microfiltration system, the Gate 5 “air dries the sludge to a dry biofuel, and this dry biofuel can be burned in burners. just like coal is burned, and the burner has a turbine that generates electricity to run it all.

Compared to other methane reduction methods like anaerobic digestion, which reduces about 30 percent of methane, “we are the only solution that completely eliminates them from landfill sludge and residual waste,” said Rainey. “We are the end system where there is no transport, and it is scalable. “

Because it is modernized, the Gate 5 system can be designed to meet the waste generation needs of any type of organization, from businesses to dairy farms, small towns, universities and large metropolitan centers.

And although it does require an upfront payment, it pays for itself in the long run through power generation and by saving “the cost of transportation and land for sludge,” Rainey said.

Pending the results of the first such test, Rainey said there are 30 other cities in the United States that are interested in installing their own systems, as well as Puerto Rico, which is purchasing a brand new system through a grant from the Environmental Protection Agency.

In addition, the patent can be licensed to third party contractors, so that the Gate 5 system can be built or adapted to existing systems by other companies.

“The answer everyone asks, ‘Why haven’t we done all of this alone? Is: “Why weren’t there any grants? Rainey said. “All of these things happen at the right time, and we were in the right place at the right time.”

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