Ef­flu­ent packs eco­nomic and en­vi­ron­men­tal punch

The Pak Banker - - OPINION - Robert Cyran

Ef­flu­ent is start­ing to pack a no­tice­able eco­nomic punch. Fracker Pi­o­neer Na­tional Re­sources has just struck a $117 mil­lion deal to use treated hu­man sewage in its wells. United Air­lines an­nounced in June that it plans to use an­i­mal and food waste for fuel. These are just a cou­ple of the grow­ing pos­si­bil­i­ties for re­cy­cled fe­ces and waste­water. Ger­many al­ready gets al­most 5 per­cent of its elec­tric­ity from so-called bio­gas, which is ex­tracted from waste­water, ma­nure, food scraps and land­fills. The U.S. Depart­ment of Energy reck­ons Amer­i­can sources could gen­er­ate 420 bil­lion cu­bic feet of bio­gas a year, equal to around 5 per­cent of the na­tion's nat­u­ral gas con­sump­tion. At cur­rent prices, that's worth around $1.5 bil­lion - not much by it­self. But con­sider that the ma­nure from the na­tion's 6 mil­lion cat­tle alone could power 1 mil­lion homes, ac­cord­ing to Univer­sity of Al­berta re­searchers. And U.S. farms and an­i­mal feed­ing oper­a­tions pro­duce a lot of other an­i­mal waste, too.

Re­cy­cling sewage might more than pay for it­self. Amer­ica's 15,000 or so waste­water treat­ment plants ac­count for around 0.6 per­cent of the na­tion's an­nual elec­tric­ity con­sump­tion. The largest 1,000 fa­cil­i­ties could alone pro­duce five times the elec­tric­ity they use by tap­ping the energy from the sludge they process, the Wa­ter En­vi­ron­ment Re­search Foun­da­tion es­ti­mates. Bio­gas can also help the en­vi­ron­ment. It helps rid the at­mos­phere of gas that rot­ting sewage pro­duces. Most of that is meth­ane, which ac­counts for a tenth of green­house gas emis­sions and is as much as 30 times as po­tent a heat-trap­ping gas as car­bon diox­ide, ac­cord­ing to aca­demics at Prince­ton.

What's more, tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vances like new en­zymes that break down waste are mak­ing bio­gas cheaper to cre­ate. Ger­many has low­ered costs even fur­ther with tax sub­si­dies based on how much a pro­ducer cuts green­house gases. Hu­man fe­ces can also be turned into drink­ing wa­ter. Mi­crosoft founder Bill Gates was re­cently filmed sam­pling H20 pro­duced that way in min­utes by the Jan­icki Om­nipro­ces­sor, which his foun­da­tion helped fi­nance for de­vel­op­ing coun­tries. The ma­chine can pro­duce up to 86,000 liters of wa­ter and 250 kilowatts of elec­tric­ity a day. There's a sig­nif­i­cant ick fac­tor in­volved, of course, but that's a small price to pay. In a world with a grow­ing pop­u­la­tion and dwin­dling re­sources, putting na­ture's byprod­ucts to good use makes ever more sense.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Pakistan

© PressReader. All rights reserved.