Oil from Sewage

It's almost sounds too good to be true but turning sewage sludge into oil and natural gas will at once solve two problems—fuel availability and disposal of waste. And an Israeli company is trying to do exactly that.

''BioPetrol, the Israeli firm, is experimenting with a method of extracting oil out of sewage sludge and extracted oil could be converted into petroleum and natural gas,'' Amit More, CEO of Israeli investing and consulting firm Eco Energy, said. Eco energy advises BioPetrol Ltd.

''Sludge is a major problem in the world. Cities pay $50 a tonne or more to get rid of it,'' Amor recently told CNet. ''And it's good-quality light oil.'' A tonne of high-quality sludge can produce about 30 kg of such oil, he said.

Although Israel has found a fairly sizable natural-gas field off its coast in 1999, the country relies on exports of oil and coal to keep the lights on. Getting energy out of sludge potentially could help alleviate the problem. The energy could be sold or, on a more practical level, used to keep things running in the cities where it is harvested, CNet said.

BioPetrol has a special technology that precludes the use of microbes to break down the organic matter. Measures to be implemented to resolve the problem of sewage sludge that contain a high degree of organic matter could primarily aim at recycling it through a thermo chemical pyrolysis process in order to recover hydrocarbons that make up the structure of sewage sludge. Pyrolysis of sewage sludge produces oil, gas and char products. The pyrolysis oils have also been shown to contain valuable chemicals in significant concentrations and hence may have the potential to be used as chemical feedstock. The production of a liquid product increases the ease of handling, storage and transport.

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