Towards an off-grid fecal sludge treatment unit: demonstrating energy positive thermal treatment

TitleTowards an off-grid fecal sludge treatment unit: demonstrating energy positive thermal treatment
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2019
AuthorsTaylor Myers, Lars Schoebitz, Stuart Woolley, Jaime Sanchez Ferragut, Jimmy Thostenson, Kathy Jooss, Jeffrey Piascik, August Frechette, Nico Hotz, Brian Stoner, and Jeff Hallowell
JournalGates Open Research
Date Published4/2019

Background: There is an unmet demand for community-scale fecal sludge treatment units (FSTUs) that serve communities of between 1,000 and 50,000 people and are able to operate in non-sewered and off-grid environments. An emerging industry standard for FSTUs includes as a key criteria energy independence in steady-state. Theoretically, there is sufficient thermal energy available in fecal sludge to provide the electrical power needed to run the FSTU. However, such a system had never been implemented.
Methods: Biomass Controls has previously demonstrated the thermal treatment of fecal sludge using the Biogenic Refinery, a thermal FSTU deployed in three sites in India. In this article we describe testing where a Biogenic Refinery was paired with a thermal fluid heat exchanger and organic Rankine cycle generator to generate electrical power.
Results: This Biogenic Refinery combined heat and power system generated sufficient electrical power to offset electrical parasitic loads in steady-state operation and produce a surplus of 1.2 kWe.
Conclusions: The results of the study demonstrate that there is an excess of energy available and reliable mechanisms to generate electrical energy using an FSTU. Additional steps are necessary to transition to a true off-grid FSTU.