January 15, 2008
Biodiesel from sewage?
This guest post is from Garlynn Woodsong.
The East Bay Municipal Utility District is, according to this article, putting the finishing touches on a process that produces biodiesel from "Brown Grease," or the grease that is collected from the kitchens at restaurants. They estimate that they could produce 700,000 gallons of biodiesel a year, or more, from the stuff -- more than enough to supply the 300,000 gallons a year that their own fleet of diesel vehicles consumes. Their testing is especially significant, since they believe that their method of producing biodiesel from brown grease also eliminates the nasty air pollution that has traditionally been associated with burning the stuff, related to its high sulfur content, among other things.
Could Portland use the same process to turn brown grease into biodiesel?
And what about the rest of the crap at the sewage treatment plant? According to this article, a New Zealand company has been turning the algae that grows on top of the ponds into biodiesel for over a year! This is a win-win situation, since the algae itself is known for producing foul smells, and its removal (or harvesting, if you will) actually aids in the cleaning process that produces "clean" water for re-use or discharge.
So, could Portland's sewage treatment plants actually be converted into massive biodiesel factories, helping to power Tri-Met, the city's own diesel vehicle fleet, as well as producing excess to help power private vehicles like trucks and diesel passenger cars?
Preliminary indications from East Bay MUD are that utilities could actually make a profit on such an endeavor. Is Portland already working on such a plan behind the scenes? How long until we can fuel up with biodiesel made from poo?
Guest Column at 12:21 AM
January 15, 2008 1:14 AM
I can't figure out why Portland hasn't been on the forefront of turning waste into energy. There are also systems where you can put whole, unsorted garbarge into a machine and get energy out. Why the heck isn't Portland doing this? And then sending press releases to our fans at the New York Times?
January 15, 2008 1:36 AM
Casey: "I can't figure out why Portland hasn't been on the forefront of turning waste into energy. There are also systems where you can put whole, unsorted garbarge into a machine and get energy out. Why the heck isn't Portland doing this?"
They are actually pretty common, but they cause a lot of air pollution. There is one just north of Salem. You can read about it here
"Incineration of PVC plastics creates a byproduct substance called dioxin. No one, including the department of waste, denies that dioxins are created by incineration. The toxicity of dioxin is well-documented. When dioxin is present, there is no way for a farmer to keep these toxic compounds from contaminating the animals and products he produces, nor is there a way to determine the amount of dioxin animals receive before processing and shipment. For example, when dioxin is emitted from the incinerator and deposited on pastures, it concentrates itself in the fat and fatty products of cattle after they consume the contaminated grass or bay. Another example I find ironic and alarming is the vegetables that are prepared, packaged and shipped less than a quarter of a mile north of the county's garbage incinerator. Should there be a warning label on the packages? Besides being incredibly toxic, dioxin has another nasty habit. Once dioxin is ingested, it does not go away. It is permanently stored and builds up in the body fat forever. Dioxin can trigger a cancer, immune system problem, or any number of serious health disorders. The higher in the food chain, the more susceptible one is to dioxin poisoning."
January 15, 2008 4:07 AM
There are other methods, like zapping it with plasma. Also, with higher inceneration temperatures, the amount of dioxin can be reduced, and newer technologies have been able to reduce dioxin levels more. Was the Salem plant part of the popularity of garbage burning facilities in the 1980s?
January 15, 2008 9:55 AM
ANYTHING is better than status quo - dumping sewage into the Willamette. I think its vile to think that we live in this green "utopia" yet our cities for years have been dumping millions of gallons of sewage every day during the rainy season into the Willamette River! Shame on us! Sure Portland is addressing it with the big pipe but it should have been addressed back in the 70's!
January 15, 2008 2:18 PM
Lenny Anderson Says:
Portlanders are shelling out almost $1.5 Billion to cut combined sewer overflows by 95%. Already the Columbia Blvd. and West Side Big Pipes are sending most, if not all, combined sewer to the sewer plant. The East Side Big Pipe will be done in 2011; the tunnel is being mined as I write.
We are walking out talk.
January 16, 2008 2:40 AM
It should also be noted that landfills produce a tremendous amount of greenhouse gases, particularly methane.
January 16, 2008 11:57 AM
Portlanders are shelling out almost $1.5 Billion to cut combined sewer overflows by 95%
Portland only did this becuase the Feds FORCED it to. If Portland were the big environmental enclave it deceives us all into thinking it is, this issue would have been addressed a long time ago. Now Eugene, Corvallis and Salem need to get their act together too.
January 17, 2008 9:36 AM
here's an interesting article about a machine that can convert garbage into energy (from Purdue U.):
It's been almost a year, according to the article date, wonder where it is now.....