Wastewater Treatment in the USA
The wastewater treatment industry is one of the largest producers of biogas in the US. However, whilst both aerobic and anaerobic systems are used for treatment, there are only about 2,000 plants that treat organic waste using anaerobic digestion; this compared to over 10,000 in Europe. Considering that only approximately 16% of these plant use the biogas to generate electricity and about 1% to produce biomethane, it’s easy to see that the potential for expansion of an important industrial activity, directly related to environmental amelioration, is significant.
Biogas is produced from the degradation of organic material during anaerobic digestion. In its optimum state, it is composed primarily of methane (40-70%), carbon dioxide (30 – 50%) and varying amounts of other gases such as nitrogen and trace amounts of contaminants. It is produced not only from the degradation of plant and animal waste but also from the waste that we produce on a daily basis that, until relatively recently, was directed to landfill for disposal.
As biogas is rich in methane, a gas that is not only a highly damaging greenhouse gas but also one that can be used to produce heat and energy, it has been attracting commercial interest not only because of the maturity in the technology for producing and using it, but also because there is potentially a huge amount of it that is currently going to waste.
Of course, this is not a huge amount in terms of yearly consumption in the US but there is no doubt that it represents a huge impact in the battle currently waging in the climate emergency.
Methane is 21 times more damaging, in terms of the greenhouse effect than CO2, so its removal from the carbon cycle (at present, more like a runaway train) is one that will hugely benefit our common environment.So, well-tested technology is available for immediate deployment and the use of biogas from wastewater for energy production is a low-risk, high-yield opportunity that is not only commercially viable but also a highly effective mechanism in terms of environmental protection.
Organics has been active in the field of wastewater treatment and biogas production for more than 30 years and has built and delivered over 300 projects around the globe. Active not only in power generation using treated biogas but also the conditioning of biogas for use as a vehicle fuel or for injection into the natural as grid, Organics has a clear mission to concentrate on one of the fundamental aspects of society’s requirements: that of managing our waste in an efficient and productive manner and ensuring that a phenomenon that has until recently been considered to be an undesirable consequence of modern living, can be converted into a valuable resource; an essential step in the process known as the circular economy – the optimization of resources and the minimization of waste.
In developing the technology for anaerobic digestion, Organics has built many projects throughout the world ranging from the capture of landfill biogas and its conversion into energy, to the production and treatment of biogas produced by anaerobic digestion of organic material in lagoons and tanks.
The US Department of Energy has recently shown that, in the US, it is estimated that the methane potential from organic waste is around 9 million tons per year, which is equivalent to 420 billion cubic feet or 431 trillion BTUs, an amount that could potentially displace about 5% of current natural gas consumption in electricity production and more than 55% in natural gas used in transport.
Organics has built several AD plant for the treatment of wastewater from industrial processes such as the production of tapioca from cassava. In such cases, large covered lagoons, that can store over 2,000,000 scf of wastewater with elevated COD, and that can produce over 2.5m scf a day of biogas, are constructed close to the point of accumulation of wastewater. The biogas produced is enough for over 3MW of electricity for use within the process or for export to the national grid.
The American Biogas Council lists the many advantages of employing biogas, not only as an economic driver but as a potent tool in combating the climate crisis. The technology for generating and using biogas is mature and there are many ways in which biogas can be converted into a useful agent that provides us with multiple benefits. The position is clear, it’s up to us to ensure a secure future for everyone.