Where there's muck there's gas

by GreenWire.org.uk. Published Tue 21 Apr 2009 12:43
Scientists focus research on the benefits of wastewater
Scientists focus research on the benefits of wastewater

Two young research scientists are at the cutting edge of experimental technologies which could help save the planet.

The work of North West-based Ian Carline and Ruyi Hu has the potential to cut thousands of tons of carbon emissions and save millions and both their projects focus on the billions of litres of wastewater generated each year.

The two scientists are part of the Research and Development team of the North West's water and wastewater giant, United Utilities. Both their projects offer the possibility of major environmental benefits and could help cut water bills.

Ian is involved in a new way of eliminating harmful micro-organisms from sewage sludge, potentially reducing energy consumption over today's methods by up to 75% and eliminating 2,000 tonnes of C02 emissions each year.

Although currently only a laboratory demonstration, the Carbon Trust has been impressed enough with the possibilities of the technology to provide a grant of nearly £110,000 to further its development.

Ruyi is working at making big reductions in the amount of chemicals used in sewage treatment. His innovative method has the additional benefit of producing methane gas which could be converted to electricity to help run United Utilities' plants.

Each year, UU invests around £1.5million to research and development projects looking at the impacts of climate change.

The company is also spending £22million on the creation of Combined Heat and Power engines that harvest the methane gas given off by sewage sludge.

Not only can such plants provide the heat for treatment processes and the electricity to run the works, they do it by using up methane which is 23 times more damaging to the atmosphere than C02.

"We have high hopes of each of the projects Ruyi and Ian are involved with, but although exciting progress is being made, it could be years before either of these experimental technologies could realistically be ready to be introduced into our operation," said Chris Matthews, Head of Environment and Sustainability.

"Even so, Research and Development is taken very seriously here - it will have a crucial role to play in our bid to beat climate change."

Ruyi, 24, who currently lives in Chester gained a degree in pharmaceutical engineering in his native China, then a Masters in the same subject at Loughborough University before joining United Utilities in 2007.

Ian studied Environmental Chemistry at UWE prior to joining UU and has worked on several R&D projects looking at optimising wastewater treatment.

Ian has vast experience in pilot plant design, construction and operation in all areas of wastewater treatment.

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