The CleanTech Burn

Someday soon, the world may be powered by landfill waste and animal manure. No, seriously. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, landfill waste accounts for the third largest source of methane. But biogas isn’t without its complications. A chemical known as hydrogen sulfide is a bioproduct of biogas. Poisonous and highly corrosive, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease registry discusses the potential health and environmental impacts of hydrogen sulfide on environments and people. However, a new development in the world of green clean tech may have a solution. Instead of creating chemical waste in the hydrogen sulfide removal process, the toxic substance is filtered out. The leftover waste is turned 600 into a fertilizer during the process, making green, clean and waste-free energy possible…

CleanTech Burn

(Cover photo by www.insideenergy.org)

Someday soon, the world may be powered by landfill waste and animal manure.
In the race to cut carbon from energy production, enter biogas. Simply put, biogas is gas that is produced from organic waste. The production of this form of energy from organic material is broken down anaerobically, or without oxygen. Waste from food, livestock (such as manure), wastewater treatment plants and even landfills can be recycled into the system to produce energy.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, landfill waste accounts for the third largest source of methane. The amount of potential energy locked up in landfill waste in the United States alone is over 160 million tons. The ability to tap into this energy is critical in combating climate change. As the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), points out, methane accounts for 10 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions in the United States.
Biogas recycles this leftover methane and turns it into energy that can be used for both electricity and heat production.

However, biogas isn’t without its complications. A chemical known as hydrogen sulfide is a bi-product of biogas. Poisonous and highly corrosive, hydrogen sulfide smells like rotten eggs at low concentrations. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease registry discusses the potential health and environmental impacts of hydrogen sulfide on environments and people. The most common side effects are issues with the nervous and respiratory system, including headaches, dizziness and eye and nose irritation.

A new development in the world of green cleantech has found a way to turn this poisonous waste into a precious resource. CHAR Technologies, a Canadian company under CEO Andrew White, is making advancements in the field of biogas production, developing a process to clean the harmful hydrogen sulfide out of biogas producing greener cleaner energy.
Like the black pellets inside a Brita Filter, the SulfaCHAR or activated carbon pellets are poured into a tank 4 ft (1.2 m) in diameter. After it is closed, the gas begins flowing through the tank. As the hydrogen sulfide interacts with the SulfaCHAR, it turns into sulfates. CHAR Technologies prides itself on the fact that they don’t rely on chemicals but rather compost like material in the process.

The sulfur fertilizer created is safe and chemical free, so it can be spread onto fields as it comes out of the gas cleaning system, although it is usually blended with other fertilizer nutrients such as potassium and phosphorus first  “SulfaCHAR is a free-flowing carbon pellet, so when the material needs to be replaced, it is simply emptied out of the tank and new material put in,” says White. “The spent SulfaCHAR can then be used as a soil conditioner with fertilizer.”

Biogas is big business. In Germany alone, biogas production has meant billions of dollars injected into the local economy and thousands of jobs. Recycling methane produced in food production, water treatment and agriculture to power and heat our homes is helping pave the way to a greener path.