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Human Feces Could Save the Government Billions of Dollars and Light Homes

Nov 04, 2016 11:02 AM EDT
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Next time you drop your kids off at the pool, you could be unknowingly saving the planet.

This may sound like fiction but engineers at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) belonging to the U.S. Department of Energy have devised a technology that can transform human waste into crude oil. PNNL announced their plans on Wednesday to produce crude oil, phosphorous, and other chemicals from ordinary sewage, according to a report published on Inverse. Down the line, this technology can create a ceaseless loop to alleviate the consequences when it'll be impossible to drill water from the Earth.

The process known as "hydrothermal liquefaction" (HTL) takes sewage and subjects it to extremely high pressures and temperatures. As a result, what takes nature millions of years can be achieved by this procedure within a few minutes. PNNL plans to build a plant that will cost between $8 to $9 million and work is slated to begin in 2017 followed by its launch in 2018. The Gates Foundation had also created a similar machine in 2015 that could transform sewer sludge into fertilizer, electricity and even drinkable water for use in developing nations.

Besides generating useful fuel, HTL could save huge amounts of money for governments in different nations by eliminating the requirement for processing of sewage residuals, its transportation, and its disposal. A tiny amount of solid materials is also produced using this technology.

For instance, initial efforts have shown the ability of HTL to recover phosphorous that can be used in place of phosphorous ore that is generally used in the production of fertilizers. Biogas from human droppings can also generate electricity for millions of homes while protecting the environment and improving health. A study conducted by the UN Institute for Water, Environment and Health (UNU-INWEH) in 2015 had indicated that biogas generated from all human waste in the world every year would roughly translate to $9.5 billion worth of natural gas.

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