World Toilet Day...Ghana To Convert Faecal Sludge Into Biodiesel Fuel

Researchers at the Columbia University’s Engineering School are working with a team in Ghana are launching a pilot facility to convert faecal sludge (FS) into biodiesel fuel to celebrate World Toilet Day, which falls on November 19. The facility would help address the societal problem in disposing feacal matter in Ghana and concurrently producing renewable and cost-effective sustainable energy. This was contained in a statement issued in Accra on Monday by Waste Enterprisers Limited, one of the partners of the project. Other partners include Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) and Kumasi Metropolitan Assembly. The statement said the team is scaling up its research efforts initiated in a Columbia University Engineering lab, and expected the working facility to become a revolutionary new model in sanitation. “The FS to biodiesel pilot project could potentially address sustainable sanitation and introduce a new dimension into the sanitation value chain not only in Kumasi but globally,” Anthony Mensah, Waste Management Director for the city of Kumasi was quoted as saying. “The Kumasi Metropolitan Assembly is therefore delighted to be part of this novel partnership.” The launch of the pilot phase is a major milestone in the pioneering project now entering its second year. Funded through grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the project is led by Kartik Chandran, an associate professor of Earth and Environmental Engineering at Columbia University’s school of engineering and applied science and Ashley Murray, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Waste Enterprisers Ltd, a Ghanaian company that is working to reinvent the economics of sanitation in the developing world. As part of the project, Chandran is developing an innovative technology to transform faecal sludge into biodiesel fuel and is working on converting a waste-processing facility into a bio-refinery. “This is a very exciting project for us. “We are aiming to create a next-generation urban sanitation facility that will set new standards and serve as a model around the world. With the capacity to receive and treat 10,000 litres, or 2500 gallons—a full sanitation truck carrying concentrated faecal matter from at least 5,000 people—of faecal sludge per day, this facility reaches way beyond the lab scale,” says Chandran. The statement said in the pilot phase, expected to last 12 months, the researchers would be testing Chandran’s bioprocess technology for converting the organic compounds present in faecal sludge to biodiesel and methane, two potent sources of renewable energy. “Our goal is to develop a revenue-generating faecal-sludge-to-biodiesel facility that can transform sanitation from an expensive burden into a profitable venture. If we figure out a way to make waste management profitable, governments and citizens that currently bear the financial, environmental, and public health costs will all be better off,” notes Murray. Chandran and Murray are working closely with several students at KNUST along with a team of process engineers to improve the biodiesel yield from faecal sludge and explore the commercial viability of a business model based on creating biodiesel from human waste. “This project is …more than a technology breakthrough, it’s about creating economically sustainable approaches to waste management that can eliminate the sanitation crisis in developing cities,” Murray said.