From Sludge to Power: Success

At the Truckee Meadows Water Reclamation Facility, researchers from the University of Nevada, Reno, are attempting to go from sludge to power.

“We are very pleased with the results of the demonstration testing of our research,” says Chuck Coronella, principal investigator for the research project and an associate professor of chemical engineering. “The process to dry the sludge to make it burnable for a gasification process, which could then be transformed into electricity, is working very well. This is an important step for our renewable energy research, processing about 20 pounds an hour of sludge in a continuous-feed system to produce about 3 pounds an hour of dried powder.”

The processing machine economically produces the biomass fuel from the sludge by using an innovative process with relatively low temperatures in a fluidized bed of sand and salts.

The new technology is patent-pending, low-cost, energy-efficient, and an experimental carbon-neutral system. The solid fuel that is produced will be analyzed for its sustainability to be used for fuel through gasification, while the refrigerator-size demonstration will help researchers determine the optimum conditions for a commercial-sized operation.

Although estimates will be further refined though they research, they currently show that a full-scale system has the potential to generate 25,000 kilowatt-hours per day to help power the local reclamation facility.

“Our next step is to do exactly what this dryer is doing on a much larger scale,” Coronella explains. “We plan to demonstrate the technology at a scale 100 times larger, to convince investors and plant operators of the technology’s viability.”

“Economically, this makes sense,” says Coronella. “Treatment plants have to get rid of the sludge, and what better way than to process it on-site and use the renewable energy to lower operating costs.”