WASHINGTON, Sept. 8, 2010 — Biodiesel fuel could be produced from municipal sewage sludge at a cost that is within a few cents a gallon of being competitive with conventional diesel refined from petroleum, according to the latest episode in the American Chemical Society’s (ACS) award-winning podcast series, “Global Challenges/Chemistry Solutions.”
Sewage sludge, shown at a wastewater treatment plant, could provide a new source of biodiesel fuel that is cost-competitive with conventional diesel.
To boost biodiesel production, sewage treatment plants could use microorganisms that produce higher amounts of oil, says study leader David M. Kargbo, Ph.D., with the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).That step alone could increase biodiesel production to the 10 billion gallon mark, which is more than triple the nation’s current biodiesel production capacity, he reports.
Kargbo points out in the podcast that demand for biodiesel has led to the search for cost-effective biodiesel feedstocks, or raw materials. Soybeans, sunflower seeds and other food crops have been used as raw materials but are expensive. Sewage sludge is an attractive alternative feedstock — the United States alone produces about seven million tons of it each year. Sludge is a good source of raw materials for biodiesel.
Kargbo’s results appear in ACS’ Energy & Fuels, a bi-monthly journal: “Biodiesel Production from Municipal Sewage Sludges.”
This podcast is available without charge at iTunes and from ACS at www.acs.org/globalchallenges. Recent podcasts in the series, also available on the same site, include “smart” roofs that are energy-efficient; the origins of household dust; an accurate urine test for pneumonia, and a more economical process for making ethanol from non-food sources.
Global Challenges/Chemistry Solutions is a series of podcasts describing some of the 21st Century’s most daunting problems, and how cutting-edge research in chemistry matters in the quest for solutions. Global Challenges is the centerpiece in an alliance on sustainability between ACS and the Royal Society of Chemistry. It includes topics such as providing a hungry, thirsty world with ample supplies of nutritious food and clean water; developing alternatives to petroleum to fuel society; preserving the environment and assuring a sustainable future for our children; and improving human health.