The Economics of Poop for Creating Biofuels

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Energy dot gov Office of Energy Efficiency and renewable energy

Bioenergy Technologies Office


December 8, 2021

The Economics of Poop for Creating Biofuels

PNNL Research examines bioenergy potential material

PNNL performed a techno-economic analysis to investigate the feasibility of using hydrothermal liquefaction to convert wastewater into biofuel. Photo courtesy of Andrea Starr, PNNL

Wastewater—American households produce billions of gallons of it daily. But wastewater is not just a waste. The energy, nutrients, and metals contained in the untreated sludge at thousands of the nation’s wastewater resource recovery facilities have the potential to be transformed into a renewable, cost-effective feedstock for liquid transportation biofuels.

A team of researchers from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) conducted a techno-economic analysis to investigate how cost-effective it would be to use a newer process—hydrothermal liquefaction, or HTL—for treating wastewater solids by converting them to biofuels. By modeling the long-term economics, they found that HTL can be economically deployed at more than 1,000 wastewater resource recovery facilities, where it can convert more than three-quarters of untreated sludge solids into biocrude. The biocrude immediate can be used directly or upgraded in a refinery to a variety of liquid transportation fuels.

The analysis, supported by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Bioenergy Technologies Office, is summarized in the Journal of Environmental Management. Read more about this research project in the article “The Economics of Poop for Creating Biofuels” on Bioprose: Bioenergy R&D Blog.