New sewage process “could heat homes from human waste”

An Aston University project that aims to transform sewage sludge into energy for heating and clean water has been awarded a £427,000 grant by Ofwat.

Aston’s project with engineering consultancy ICMEA-UK uses a process called REvAR (Renewable Energy via Aqueous-phase Reforming) to extract energy from the waste produced during sewage and water treatment and transforming it into hydrogen or methane. The gases can then be used to heat people’s homes or to provide power, the university adds. 
The aim is to create a sustainable and cost-efficiently run wastewater processes, plus additional energy and the initiative was one of ten winners of Ofwat’s Water Discovery Challenge.

Dr Jude Onwudili based at Aston University’s Energy and Bioproducts Research Institute (EBRI) is leading the team of scientists who will work with the partners to develop a trial rig to transform solid residues from wastewater treatment plants to hydrogen and/or methane.
The two-stage process will involve the initial transformation of organic components in the sludge into liquid intermediates, which will then be converted to the fuel gases in a second stage.
Dr Onwudili will be working with lead partner and engineering consultancy company ICMEA-UK and sustainable infrastructure company Costain
REVAR combines the use of hot-pressurised water or hydrothermal conditions with catalysts to achieve high conversion efficiency. The technique can treat sewage sludge in just minutes, and it is hoped that it will replace existing energy-intensive processes, the university says.
Dr Onwudili said:

This project is important because millions of tonnes of sewage sludge are generated in the UK each year and the water industry is struggling with how to effectively manage them as waste. Instead, they can be converted into valuable feedstocks which are used for producing renewable fuel gases, thereby increasing the availability of feedstocks to meet UK decarbonisation targets through bioenergy.

He added that the conversion of a waste product meets a number of sustainability aims:

We will be taking a waste product and recovering two important products from it: clean water and renewable energy. Overall, the novel technology will contribute towards meeting UK Net Zero obligations by 2050 and ties in with the University’s purpose to make our world a better place through education, research and innovation.

Helen Campbell, senior director for sector performance at Ofwat, said:

This competition was about reaching new innovators from outside the sector with different approaches and new ideas, and that’s exactly what the winners are doing.

Water sustainability and heating innovation are both on the agenda at this year’s InstallerSHOW, on 25-27 June at the NEC. Register for FREE tickets here: installer-2024-splash.reg.buzz