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Green Energy from Sewage
May 7, 2015   
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Researchers from the Lodz University of Technology’s Institute of Fermentation Technology and Microbiology have invented a method that uses microorganisms to remove contaminants from biogas.

An installation based on the innovative technology will soon be launched at the Grupowa Oczyszczalnia ¦cieków sewage treatment plant in £ód¼. The facility produces 18,600 cubic meters of biogas from organic sediments a day, which is enough to generate all the heat the facility needs as well as half of the electricity it uses. Biogas accounts for around 13 percent of all renewable energy produced in the city of £ód¼ , while £ód¼ province has 10 biogas installations, with more under way.

Regarded as an environmentally friendly fuel, biogas can help Poland become less dependent on other sources of energy, while making energy cheaper to obtain. The calorific value of biogas, which mainly consists of methane, is reduced by the hydrogen sulfide (H2S) and carbon dioxide (CO2) it contains. A project carried out by the Institute of Fermentation Technology and Microbiology, which is part of the Lodz University of Technology’s Faculty of Biotechnology and Food Sciences, aimed to develop innovative bioconversion technology to treat biogas contaminants, H2S in particular. Prof. Maria
Kozio³kiewicz, dean of the faculty, says this is one of the university’s largest projects being carried out jointly with an industrial partner. The team-up with the Lodz University of Technology has provided the local sewage treatment plant with one of the world’s first systems where microorganisms are used to remove contaminants from biogas. The method invented by researchers from the Institute of Fermentation Technology and Microbiology offers a good alternative to chemical processes, as it eliminates all the difficulties that arise with chemical H2S removal methods.

Krzysztof Ziemiński, PhD, who manages the project, says the bacteria in the system are the most innovative component of the new technology. “This innovative concept makes it possible to cut the costs of biogas production and processing,” says Ziemiński. “We do not dilute the biogas with air; we do not reduce its calorific value, and the installation does not require any extra safety devices. No chemicals are added, the technology is environmentally friendly and the biogas costs less to obtain than in H2S removal methods used so far.”

The microorganisms that the researchers have used grow on filter pellets made of carefully selected materials and soaked in a special substance. They form a mucous film around the pellets. The bacteria remove almost 100 percent of contaminants from biogas.

The installation was mounted at the sewage treatment plant in £ód¼ following over two years of industrial research. “Businesses that operate in the renewable energy sector are looking forward to innovative, effective and cheap biotechnological methods to purify biogas,” says Ziemiński. “Our project meets these expectations.”

Working with the sewage plant, researchers from the Lodz University of Technology were able, right from the start, to test their innovative technology in a real-life environment. The tests proved so promising that the treatment plant managers bought a license from the university and decided to start biological biogas treatment at the facility. The first installation, in one of the plant’s two H2S removal systems, will be launched in June this year and the other one next year.

The project has also provided the Institute of Fermentation Technology and Microbiology with a state-of-the-art laboratory to conduct research and measurements. Cutting-edge equipment for the laboratory cost around zl.1 million and enables advanced chromatographic, microbiological and analytical studies.

The innovative technology using microorganisms cost over zl.3.5 million to develop, 85 percent of which came from the EU and the remainder from Poland’s Ministry of Science and Higher Education.

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