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Turning Human Waste into Oil

  • George Putic

A Delta jet takes off in view of an Alaska Airlines plane that just landed Dec. 16, 2015, at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, in Washington. A process developed by the U.S. Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory could turn human waste into gasoline, diesel or jet fuel.

Each person on this planet produces enough organic waste to create between 7 and 11 liters of biofuel a year.

A long time ago, Mother Nature figured out how to turn any organic matter into crude oil... but the process is so slow, it takes millions of years.

Now scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory say they managed to speed it up, and turn the sludge into biofuels and natural gas.

It is estimated that every day, Americans produce 128 billion liters of raw sewage, which is mostly organic material, including fats. With the new method, that could potentially be turned into millions of barrels of biocrude oil.

The process works like this: once it is mechanically separated from wastewater, raw sludge is placed into a sort of a pressure cooker. Heated to 349 degrees Celsius and pressurized to 204 atmospheres, it quickly breaks down into a form of petroleum which could be refined further into gasoline, diesel or jet fuel. Leftovers can be used in fertilizer manufacturing.

Utah-based Genifuel corporation plans to build a large $6 million plant in Vancouver, Canada, that is scheduled to start turning human waste into biofuel in 2018.

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