Grand Junction is the first US city to produce renewable natural gas from human waste, local authorities have recently revealed.
The municipality, located in Mesa County, Colorado, has taken the unprecedented step of maximizing the potential of its wastewater, by turning fecal matter into biofuel.
The entire process, involving anaerobic digestion through which biomatter is converted into biogas, takes place at the Persigo Wastewater Treatment Plant.
Then the pressurized methane, which has been filtered in order to reach pipeline quality, is transported across an underground system of pipes, measuring approximately 6 miles in length.
The final destination for the city’ compressed and refined renewable natural gas is the local fueling station, which was initially set up in 2011, for conventional natural gas but was eventually revamped in order to process virtually interchangeable biomethane instead.
At this facility, the renewable natural gas is then used in order to power around 40 of the municipality’s public vehicles, such as its buses, truck-mounted street sweepers, garbage trucks and dump trucks.
As officials explain, it took approximately a decade to implement this initiative, total costs having reached around $2.8 million.
Bret Guillory, one of Grand Junction’s utility engineers, estimates that thanks to this project of turning biomass into biofuel the contribution of the city to the greenhouse gas effect has been curbed by as much as 80%.
Even more, despite the substantial investment, in roughly 7 years the initial costs will be covered, and the entire procedure will be not just environmentally friendly, but also economically viable and sustainable from every point of view, resulting in savings amounting to several hundred of thousands of dollars.
That’s because it costs approximately 80 cents in order to produce alternative fuel corresponding to one liquid gallon of gasoline, and this renewable natural gas is afterwards bought at the price of $1.50 per gasoline gallon equivalent (GGE).
Around 460 GGEs can be obtained every single day at the facility, solely based on the city’s 8 million gallons of excrement, collected from wastewater.
According to local authorities, while the benefits of biomethane when it comes to generating heat and electricity using microturbines have been documented for countless years, the potential of this industry still hasn’t been fully harnessed.
As officials claim, no other city in the United States has had the idea to convert wastewater into biofuel that vehicles can safely rely on.
The Environmntal Protection Agency (EPA) has emphasized on numerous occasions that renewable natural gas can greatly lower the greenhouse gas effect.
Even the American Gas Association has revealed that burning such fuel is 21 times less damaging to the environment than opting for methane. However, the nation hasn’t been quick to adopt such initiatives meant to lower the amount of fossil fuel pollutants in the atmosphere.
Researchers at Energy Vision have come to the conclusion that approximately 17,000 wastewater plants, 8,000 dairy farms and ranches, as well as 1,750 landfills could easily incorporate this type of technology, and yet just around 20 plants are actively producing renewable natural gas.
In contrast, across the European Union, a total of 282 facilities have such operations, Germany and Sweden being the most involved in the production of biogas, which has been estimated at around 1.375 billion cubic meters.
While the focus in Europe remains on using renewable natural gas for electricity generators or heating purposes, a growing number of business have understood biomethane’s potential for the transportation sector as well, fueling stations that rely on RNG having become twice as widespread in 2013.
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