Use the Toilet, Produce Biofuels! High-Yield Cellulosic Ethanol From Sewage System Debuted

on the toilet photo

photo: Stuart Pilbrow via flickr.

It's been a while since a good poo-power story has come down the pipe, but here's an interesting one: Massachusetts-based biofuels company Qteros and wastewater recyclers Applied Clean Tech have announced that they have developed a high-yield solution to turning cellulose in municipal wastewater solids in ethanol. Yes, your own poo into ethanol:

recyllose pellets photo

photo: Applied Clean Tech

The system takes ACT's Recyllose pellets (pictured above) -- basically cellulose removed from municipal wastewater by their Sewage Recycling System -- and using Qteros' Q Microbe technology process it into ethanol. Qteros says that it can produce 120-135 gallons of ethanol per ton of Recyllose.

Which probably doesn't mean that much to you, and as the folks over at Biofuels Digest point out, both Qteros and ACT are keeping mum about translating that into yields from a typical sewage treatment plant, other than saying that a treatment plant serving 2 million people might support a "small cellulosic ethanol plant."

sewage treatment plant photo

photo: JL Johnson via flickr.

BD's math on typical wastewater per capita in the United States and the typical composition of the sludge that Recyllose is made from shows that Qteros' high-yield claims hold up:

Now, sludge is about 25 percent solids, so we can surmise that there is about 61 tons of Recyllose in there, which in Qteros' yield range gives us about 7,320-8,235 gallons of ethanol per month, or just south of 100,000 gallons per year. Keep in mind, this is a small plant. For the 2 million person scenario mentioned by ACT, we're looking at 20 Mgy.

Which means for the US as a whole, assuming great implementation of course, that's 2 billion gallons of ethanol.

More: Qteros (press release)

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