Energy

Cars could soon be running on biofuels derived from wastewater

Cars could soon be running on ...
Spanish auto maker SEAT and water management company Aquila are teaming up to develop treatment plants that can create sustainable biofuels from wastewater
Spanish auto maker SEAT and water management company Aquila are teaming up to develop treatment plants that can create sustainable biofuels from wastewater
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Spanish auto maker SEAT and water management company Aquila are teaming up to develop treatment plants that can create sustainable biofuels from wastewater
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Spanish auto maker SEAT and water management company Aquila are teaming up to develop treatment plants that can create sustainable biofuels from wastewater

A water management company and a car manufacturer normally might not have much to say to each other, but in Spain, Aqualia and SEAT are teaming up to develop a sustainable fuel from wastewater. The project, known as Life Metha-morphosis, is aimed at creating a biofuel from treated organic waste, which can then be used to power compressed natural gas (CNG) cars, whose CO2 emissions would be cut by up to 80 percent.

The program is built around producing biomethane, an emerging biofuel that's already been demonstrated in powering homes, buses, trucks and ships. Life Metha-morphosis, like some other projects, collects biomethane by employing bacteria to break down the solid waste, in a process called anaerobic digestion (AD).

Two different facilities are being built to demonstrate new ways to handle the task. The UMBRELLA prototype set to be installed at a sewage treatment plant that serves metropolitan Barcelona uses a new anaerobic membrane bioreactor (AnMBR) process to separate the gas from the solid waste. Another system called Annamox ELAN then removes nitrogen from the biogas, before it's further cleaned, refined and compressed into CNG for use in vehicles. The company also says that the treated water the technique produces is cleaner than what usually comes out of treatment plants, and the nitrogen that's removed from the gas can also be reclaimed.

A prototype called METHAGRO, meanwhile, will be built at a plant that deals with animal manure from agriculture and farming, creating biomethane to power cars or to be fed back into the public natural gas infrastructure.

The companies involved say a mid-sized plant can treat about 10,000 cubic meters (353,000 cu ft) of wastewater per day, which in turn creates 1,000 cubic meters (35,000 cu ft) of biomethane. That's enough fuel for 150 vehicles to travel 100 km (62 miles) each day. Auto maker SEAT will provide some CNG cars to test the new fuels in over a total distance of 120,000 km (74,500 mi).

Overall, taking into account both the use and production of the biogas, CNG cars running on biomethane made this way should belch out 80 percent less CO2 than gasoline-powered cars. By developing these facilities, the Life Metha-morphosis project is intended to at least partially comply with the European Union's Energy Efficiency Directive targets for 2020, as well as Spain's own Energy Saving and Efficiency and Renewable Energy plans.

Source: SEAT, Life Metha-morphosis, (PDF)

6 comments
Racqia Dvorak
Focusing on the agriculture sector is the right move. Plenty of waste without inorganic contaminants and if you can't get the water perfectly up to standards, it's still fine to use for watering crops. That said, they're not the only ones working on biofuels from sewage. biomethane is great for energy production, but for transportation, biodiesel is better, and I do believe I've seen a couple advancements dealing with sewage to biodiesel.
watersworm
Using wase water is a good idea, since WE humans do propduce continuously a lot of it; But as described in the news, just to fuel Barcelona's cars will need at least 1000 "middel size plants", so ???
Lardo
So my question is... how different will this "biomethane" be from, say, the methane contained in cow flatulence? 'cause you know the global warming crowd, and leaf eaters, insist that cow farts are a leading cause of climate change. We wouldn't want to add to that... would we?
LanceTurner
Lardo, it isn't cow farts, it's burps (they are ruminants, look it up) that is the main methane source from livestock, particularly cattle. I love how you call people the "global warming crowd" and "leaf eaters", as if caring about global warming and eating vego instead of killing things unnecessarily are bad things, yet are too ignorant to understand the actual issues... To the actual issue at hand, biofuels are just a last ditch effort to keep ICE vehicles going as electrification takes over. ICEs are woefully inefficient, it doesn't matter what source the fuel is from, the ICE needs to die permanently if we are going to save this planet.
Daishi
@Lardo As we speak there is an executive order on the president's desk to equip all cows with an ExxonMobil (TM) Flatulence Actuated Recuperation Traps (FART) to prevent the continued escape of methane gases into the atmosphere. Your diligence in bringing this matter to their attention is appreciated. Ivanka is en route to your position with a good samaritan medal.
CarolynFarstrider
Companies in the UK have been doing this for some years already - Have a look at Geneco, running vehicles on biogas generated from wastewater. http://www.geneco.uk.com/Poo_Bus_Legacy/. Nasty logo on the side of the bus, though.