Old Dominion Making New, Green Fuel

John Davis

olddominion.gifResearchers at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia are looking at a new way of turning algae into biodiesel.

While the algae-into-biodiesel process is still relatively new, this article from the Virginian-Pilot says the latest twist is that the green fuel is made from sewage:

In this era of clean and renewable energy development, researchers at other universities are conducting similar experiments with algae and biofuels. But ODU is on a slightly different and potentially important path, using municipal sewage to generate its slimy fuel supply.

Their first experiment is being conducted atop a sewage treatment plant run by the Hampton Roads Sanitation District, next door to ODU.

The timing could not be better. Virginia, like its neighboring states, is under pressure to reduce nutrient pollution now choking the Chesapeake Bay, and much of the excessive nitrogen and phosphorus comes from sources that include factories, slaughterhouses and sewage plants.

So, conceivably, the ODU technology could kill several birds with one stone. Nutrient-rich wastewater from agriculture, industry and municipal sewage could be piped to and purged at algae-growing stations. Biofuels could be produced. And less nitrogen and phosphorus would enter the Bay.

Add one other side benefit: a reduction in greenhouse gases. Algae love to eat carbon dioxide.

Officials believe the project could produce up to 200 gallons of biodiesel a day-a small quantity at this point, but if the project works, it could be expanded to make much more while getting rid of even larger amounts of sewage. Take that times all the sewage plants in the country, and you would have a significant chunk of renewable energy.