Before the treatment of biosolids was discovered, Americans have been throwing out their waste into rivers, streams, and lakes. Eventually, scientists developed the process of landfilling and incinerating. For a time, these practices were okay, too, since it reduced the exposure of communities to harmful municipal waste such as human feces and things that we throw into our sink and toilets.
But as time goes by, municipalities and state and federal officials realized that disposing biosolids via an application on agricultural land and landfilling is not enough. This practice wastes a lot of government resources because they would have to transport the biosolids to the composting facilities, to agricultural lands, and to landfills. They need to find a way for the biosolids to never leave the treatment plants and instead be converted into something useful for everyone.
Thus, enter the studies done to convert biosolids into a source of renewable energy. The concept of turning biosolids and recovering the energy from them is strongly aligned with state and federal regulations and guidelines.
Creating renewable fuels and reducing greenhouse gas emissions remain to be the goals of the government. The fact that biosolids could create energy is something that should not be missed.
There are many technologies that oversee the turning of biosolids into renewable energies. The goal should be to discover and use a technology that would not require the biosolids to be completely treated or to be dried.
That way, the treatment plant will save a lot of time, money, and resources from processing the biosolids and turning them into a material that can be applied as organic fertilizer. We must not need the biosolids to be in a “fertilizer” form before using it in the production of renewable energy.
That is why most advocacy groups are leaning towards a technology called Steam/CO2 Reforming. It is a technology that uses a combustion-free system that can turn biosolids into hydrogen, electricity, or other fuels such as synthetic gas.
The most appealing part of the technology is that it can process biosolids with high water content. That’s right, even in the form of “sewage sludge,” this technology can convert biosolids into energy.
The steam part of the process requires moisture. The technology does not require the biosolids to be completely dried out since the system is most efficient at a moisture content of 55 percent. Most biosolids-to-energy technologies require the drying out to be at 10 percent.
The drying process can take a lot of energy. Treatment plants might use the same percentage of renewable power produced by the biosolids that it will take for them to dry them out in the first place.