From poop to petrol: Human waste gets a second life

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New research at a Department of Energy laboratory focuses on turning human waste into a petroleum-like biofuel. (via PNNL.gov/YouTube) (Courtesy of WE&RF)

Your poop is about to get a lot more useful.

Scientists at the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory are investigating the possibility of turning human waste into a petroleum-like biofuel.

By heating and pressurizing human waste -- a process known as hydrothermal liquefaction -- scientists are able to break waste products down into smaller, simpler compounds that are then converted into a biocrude compound that can be refined just like conventional petroleum.

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The process is similar to what already occurs in nature (albeit with different materials), but instead of taking millions of years, it takes a matter of minutes.

In a single year, the United States alone produces enough waste to create 30 million barrels of oil, scientists say.

The technology will be put to use at a demonstration plant in British Columbia, Canada.

Related Topics:
scienceenergywaste managementalternative energyWashington
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