Scientist given €1million to build UK’s first plant for turning human waste into ‘biocoal’

A scientist has been given a €1million grant by the government to build the country’s first plant for converting sewage in to energy.

Dr Dominik Peus has developed a process called Hydrothermal Carbonisation (HTC) which converts sewage, agricultural waste, food waste and slurry into carbon and water.

The end product, dubbed biocoal, does not contain sulphur. It therefore burns more cleanly and qualifies for renewable energy subsidies.

carbonizationfurnaceNow the doctor’s company Antaco has been awarded a grant of €1million by the Department of Energy and Climate Change to build the country’s first biowaste conversion plant.

A statement on the company’s wesbite said: ‘Over the past 5 years Antaco has developed a process that turns biowaste into a high value biofuel – biocoal. Antaco’s technology is unique with its ability to convert 100 per cent of organic matter into a high heat value biofuel – biocoal.

‘In so doing, solves two major issues a) diverting waste from landfill and b) providing a carbon neutral fuel. The grant will enable Antaco to progress to the next stage of building and commissioning its first prototype plant which will be producing approximately 500 tonnes of biocoal by March 2014.’

Dr Peus added: ‘It’s mad that we pay people to take away our waste, when it’s actually a valuable commodity. It’s like flushing coal down the toilet, or paying the bin men to take away our money.’

HTC involves cooking biomass at 200C and at an atmospheric pressure of 20bar.

It is essentially the same process that creates coal – except it takes hours rather than thousands of years.

A sample of the biocoal. It is created by cooking biowaste under pressure

Biocoal slurry can be dried into pellets and used as a direct replacement for fossil coal in existing power generating facilities, as well as in Combined Heat and Power (CHP) and household boilers.

Use of the HTC method could cut the operating costs of any sewage plant by half, slash its energy use by 73 per cent and reduce carbon emissions by 95 per cent, according to a study by the University of Zurich.

By using the HTC process related emissions could cut be reduced to a twentieth of their current level, says the study.

According to a recent lifecycle assessment by LCAworks in conjunction with Imperial College London, HTC is four times more efficient at dealing with sludge than anaerobic digestion.

Today’s stringent European and national directives mean that sewage sludge cannot be spread on farmland and is an expensive overhead.

Dr Peus displayed a sample product of biocoal made from orange peel discarded from a fruit processing plan at the Cleantech UK Trade and Investment event in London on Friday,

‘They say it’ll cost €750m to refurbish one of Europe’s power stations. HTC creates a fuel that can be used in existing power plants, so it would save millions in energy infrastructure costs.’

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