Genifuel Corporation, a US water technology firm that specialises in turning wet organic wastes into renewable fuels, will pilot a new system that converts wastewater biomass into man-made oil and natural gas at the BlueTech Forum in Vancouver on 6 and 7 June.
Developed by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory as part of the US Department of Energy, the system could add the treatment of wastewater to the circular economy using what is known as hydrothermal processing. This processing method combines temperature, pressure and water to convert organic matter into forms of energy normally extracted through intense geological drilling techniques.
The system has been tested with more than 100 materials that include wastewater solids, food processing wastes, brewery wastes, animal wastes, and algae.
James Oyler, president of Genifuel, said hydrothermal processing (HTP) mimics the process by which fossil fuels are formed under Earth’s surface, meaning it has the ability to produce resources such as oil and gas in a fraction of the time without using heavy infrastructure or leaving a large carbon footprint.
“Fossil fuels are created when you have geological time and you have organic matter settling down into swamps and shallow lakes. After millions of years it builds up temperature and pressure and of course it’s wet and that starts the conversion into fossil petroleum and natural gas,” he said.
“In HTP the reactions and the products are similar, but we do it in an hour instead of millions of years.”
Oyler added that the fuels created through HTP can be used and mixed as effectively as their natural counterparts. Their production via the method also avoids excess residue, he said, a result typically very expensive to manage. He said the point of the system is not to increase the energy industry’s reliance on fossil fuels but to decrease the need to seek such resources while adding no further greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.
Having trialed the system successfully with the help of its sponsor, the Water Research Foundation (WRF), Genifuel will demonstrate the system to delegates at next month’s forum with Oyler as its formal representative.
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