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Poo power set to heat UK homes

Methane gas from human waste is set to heat thousands of UK homes, now that a trial in Manchester has secured Defra funding.
Human sewage is the hot renewable fuel at the centre of the new £4.3 million project, which is a collaboration between energy firm United Utilities and the National Grid.

The first of its kind in Britain, the biomethane fuel project will be based at Britain's second biggest sewage works -Manchester's Davyhulme plant. It is scheduled to start in 2011 now that United Utilities secured Defra funding for the scheme on Monday, June 15.

Caroline Ashton, United Utilities biofuels manager, said: 'The team is thrilled to have won this funding which will give the project a huge boost. It has been in development for some time, but now we can put our plans into action and the people of Manchester will soon be using 'poo power' to heat their homes.'

The pilot project should supply gas to 500 homes and the overall potential of biomethane from the Davyhulme plant would be to supply about 5,000 homes.

The scheme will see locals' wastewater sludge broken down during the process of anaerobic digestion to produce biogas which is then upgraded to biomethane. This is compressed ready to be sent into the gas grid via the local gas pipeline network.

The pure methane produced by the plant will be clear, odourless and almost identical to the gas that comes from the North Sea.

Other plants in Europe are already using the method to power homes and businesses. United Utilities is keen to be the first in the UK to process and send biomethane into the gas grid on a commercial scale.

Janine Freeman, head of National Grid's Sustainable Gas Group said: 'Biomethane is a fuel for the future. This is the first time we will be able to supply renewable gas to consumers. This pilot is an important step in helping deliver a low carbon energy future'.

She added: 'Not only are we reusing a waste product, but biomethane is a renewable fuel, so we helping to meet the country's target of 15% of all our energy coming from renewable sources by 2020'.
16 June 2009

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