Sustainable America Blog

Sewage to fuel

Exit the 405 Freeway at Euclid Ave and you’ll find the very first hydrogen fueling station that is converting sewage to fuel. This fueling station is located at the Fountain Valley sewage treatment plant, part of the Orange County Sanitation District’s wastewater treatment system.

On opening day in August of 2011, director of the program Scott Samuelson called it “a paradigm shift” explaining that “We’re taking an endless stream of human waste and transforming it to transportation fuel and electricity. This is the first time this has ever been done.” (source) The fuel comes from ‘digesters’, bacteria that break down the human waste into a biogas.

With shiny, new white and green gas pumps, the station is capable of fueling 30 cars a day currently. It also produces some 250 kw of power for use by the wastewater treatment plant. The on-site nature of the system takes any transportation logistics out of the equation making it a truly sustainable alternative.

As part of California’s goal to create a ‘hydrogen highway‘ the station is part of a 3 year demonstration project. If it goes well, you can expect to see these rolled out in more locations across the state.

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By the Numbers

Currently 50 million households suffer from food insecurity, meaning that family members cannot always meet their basic food needs.

10 million people a year could be fed through the recovery of just one-fifth of food waste.

Only 2% of food waste is composted or otherwise recycled—62% of paper is recycled.

Consumers throw out about 40% of the fresh and frozen fish they buy.

The U.S. produced 208 pounds of meat per person in 2009—60% more than Europe.

Low income commuters spend a much higher proportion of their wages on gas—8.6% versus 2.1% at $4 per gallon.

Food prices rose 35-40 percentage points between 2002–2008.

Americans consume 25% of the world’s produced oil, but our nation holds less than 3% of the world’s proven oil reserves.

The International Energy Agency says greenhouse gas emissions rose 3.2% last year, with a 9.3% increase in China offsetting declines in the US and EU.

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