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Sewage sludge could plug energy gap

It’s been proposed that human waste could be being turned into energy for the UK, in an effort to plug an ‘energy gap’ that looms in the next ten years. It’s thought that more advanced technologies could mean that biogas created from the 11 billion litres of human sewage created in the UK every day could now deliver enough electricity to power over 500,000 UK homes.

This is because biogas is produced when wastewater sludge is broken down by microbes in a process known as `anaerobic digestion' or ‘AD’. It can then be changed to biomethane, which is a renewable fuel with similar properties to natural gas, and can be stored safely and compressed for use in vehicles or the national grid. 


Biogas and AD

On average 66% of sewage is currently being ‘AD’ treated; however, recent developments in technology mean even more gas can now be extracted from sewage. The National Grid believes that at least 15% of all gas consumed could now be made from sewage slurry, discarded food thrown away by supermarkets, or by organic waste created by other businesses such as breweries. 

The idea of using human waste for power in the UK was first undertaken in Devon in the late 1800s, when in Exeter in 1895 it was used to power streetlights. However in the modern age it has far more potential, and it’s hoped it might help to control energy bills and save our environment.