Scientists at the University of California, Riverside are developing a way of converting "wet waste," such as sewage sludge and grass clippings, into synthetic diesel fuel and electricity in a move that could potentially reduce the need for landfill space and provide a cost-effective alternative to increasingly restricted land application.
The research, funded by Riverside Public Utilities and Eastern Municipal Water District, is being overseen by Colin Hackett, manager of the Alternative Fuels and Renewable Energy Program at UCR. The program is housed in the Bourns College of Engineering - Center for Environmental Research and Technology (CE-CERT).
Hackett, who also supervises graduate students at CE-CERT, has extensive experience in fuels, energetics and thermodynamics. He said he hopes to have a scale model of the new process up and running this month. If the testing phase is successful, a full-scale demonstration unit could be produced and operating by 2004.
"Productively managing the growing streams of waste is a key challenge for this region's future," Hackett said, "but we believe the process we have developed for converting wet bio-waste into energy shows particular promise."
Wet waste has historically been difficult to use as a fuel source because previous technologies required the waste be dried before conversion into fuel. By adapting the hydro-gasification conversion process, originally developed to produce clean-burning gases from coal, CE-CERT expects to be able to convert water and carbonaceous waste feeds into clean burning fuels and electricity.
CE-CERT's multi-stage fuel production process uses high temperature and pressure to produce gases that can be used for fuel synthesis or electrical power generation.
"The system requires no additional fuel or energy other than the chemical energy in the waste feed," Hackett said. "This process has enormous potential for energy conversion from any wet-was
Contact: Iqbal Pittalwala
University of California - Riverside