From Sewage Sludge to Clean Water and Energy

Aston University has been awarded a £427,000 grant by Ofwat to develop a groundbreaking project that aims to transform sewage sludge into clean water and energy. The project, called REvAR (Renewable Energy via Aqueous-phase Reforming), is a collaboration between the university, engineering consultancy ICMEA-UK, and sustainable infrastructure company Costain.

Extracting Energy from Wastewater Treatment Waste

The initiative involves extracting energy from the waste produced during sewage and water treatment and transforming it into hydrogen and/or methane. These gases can then be used to power engines or heat people’s homes, creating a sustainable and cost-efficient wastewater treatment process while generating extra energy.

Dr. Jude Onwudili, based at Aston University’s Energy and Bioproducts Research Institute (EBRI), will lead a team of scientists to develop a trial rig that will transform solid residues from wastewater treatment plants into fuel gases using a two-stage process.

Addressing the UK’s Energy Intensity and Net Zero Targets

The water sector is the fourth most energy-intensive industry in the UK, according to a 2013 report by the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management. The REvAR project aims to address this issue by converting millions of tonnes of sewage sludge generated in the UK each year into valuable feedstocks for producing renewable fuel gases.

“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,” said Dr. Onwudili.

The novel technology is expected to contribute towards meeting the UK’s Net Zero obligations by 2050, aligning with Aston University’s purpose to make the world a better place through education, research, and innovation.

The Water Discovery Challenge, part of the Ofwat Innovation Fund, aims to accelerate the development and adoption of promising new innovations for the water sector. The competition recognizes products and ideas that can help water companies better face future challenges, including achieving sustainability goals and meeting net zero targets while providing the highest-quality product for consumers.

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