New Fuel Made With Wastewater Drastically Reduces Emissions

 

A team of Taiwanese researchers has combined industrial wastewater and petroleum oil to make a new fuel that could largely eliminate the costly treatment of industrial air emissions from boilers, is an environmentally-friendly way to treat industrial wastewater, and could increase fuel efficiency by 14%.

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Worldwide, many industrial processes depend on steam boilers that are powered by what’s called heavy fuel oil (HFO). In the US, where coal and natural gas are plentiful, boilers are not typically run on HFO, but many homes in the Northeast US are still heated with furnaces that use HFO. These boilers are notorious for spewing out toxins into the environment when untreated.





Current laws require industrial boilers to be fitted with air pollution control devices that treat the emissions so they satisfy air quality regulations. At the same time, many of these industries produce a lot of wastewater that needs to be treated as well. All of this treatment adds up to a hefty bill, which, some would argue, stifles innovation and holds the economy back.

So what if we could kill two birds with one stone? What if the same wastewater coming out of these factories could be mixed with standard HFO to make a new type of fuel that burns much cleaner? We’d be satisfying the needs of our environment with the needs of industry for a beautiful win-win solution — exactly what the world needs more of.

A research team at National Cheng Kung University in Taiwan has set about to make this fantasy a reality. They’ve discovered that when they mix 80% HFO with 19.9% wastewater and 0.1% surfactant, then burn it in a boiler, carbon monoxide emissions are reduced by 84% compared to the emissions generated by burning standard heavy petroleum oil in the same boiler. Not only that, the new fuel also drastically reduces other emissions such as particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, and volatile organics.

Emission Concentrations of SO2, CO, NOx, and PM in Flue Gases for Different Fuels

The addition of the wastewater to the oil causes microexplosions prior to ignition of the oil which, in turn, causes the oil to atomize into a fine vapor. This increases the surface area of the oil and leads to more complete combustion. The water also lowers the temperature of combustion of the entire mixture which also reduces pollution from nitrogen oxides.

Although the team has only focused on boiler applications to this point (understandably; there are about 6000 industrial boilers in Taiwan alone using 12 billion liters of HFO annually), there is no reason this type of fuel couldn’t be used in a standard diesel engine with a bit of modification.

You can find the research paper here (pay to download): DOI – 10.1021/es0717156

Image Credits: Image of wastewater treatment plant from stock.xchng. Table taken and modified from original research paper published in Environmental Science and Technology / Vol. 42, No. 1, 2008.

Source: Press release (via Biofuels Digest)





About the Author

Not your traditional car guy.

  • Amazing

    If true, this is simply amazing!

  • Amazing

    If true, this is simply amazing!

  • Amazing

    If true, this is simply amazing!

  • Amazing

    If true, this is simply amazing!

  • Bob

    This is simply amazing, if true. Mix water with a renewable fuel, and you really have something.

  • Bob

    This is simply amazing, if true. Mix water with a renewable fuel, and you really have something.

  • Bob

    This is simply amazing, if true. Mix water with a renewable fuel, and you really have something.

  • Bob

    This is simply amazing, if true. Mix water with a renewable fuel, and you really have something.

  • Allgonquin

    The process of emulsifying heavy fuel oil with water is nothing new – it has been done for years. Unfortunately use of this fuel does not DRASTICALLY reduce emissions. It does reduce NOx, but it will not change sulfur dioxides, because that is a direct pass through. That data showing an 18% reduction is suspect.

    What is not stated is that if the boiler is burning an 80/20 mix, it must then burn 20% more of this mix to get the same amount of steam out the back end – the water in the fuel mix does not “burn”, it only basically cools the combustion process. So if you still need the same amount of steam for your process requirements, you must still burn the same amount of oil, therefore all the “toxins” will still pass through the boiler and out the stack

  • Allgonquin

    The process of emulsifying heavy fuel oil with water is nothing new – it has been done for years. Unfortunately use of this fuel does not DRASTICALLY reduce emissions. It does reduce NOx, but it will not change sulfur dioxides, because that is a direct pass through. That data showing an 18% reduction is suspect.

    What is not stated is that if the boiler is burning an 80/20 mix, it must then burn 20% more of this mix to get the same amount of steam out the back end – the water in the fuel mix does not “burn”, it only basically cools the combustion process. So if you still need the same amount of steam for your process requirements, you must still burn the same amount of oil, therefore all the “toxins” will still pass through the boiler and out the stack

  • Allgonquin,

    Whilst I share your scepticism on SO2, I think you miss the larger picture here.

    The dramatic reduction in CO & volatile organics, means that combustion is more efficient, leading to a reduction in fuel usage.

    Also the over emphasis on CO2 in the media, misses the point that, important as it is, other pollutants have a much more immediate effect on human health & the environment. Carbon Monoxide, Particulates, NOx and Organics all fall into that category.

    Ideally we would all stop using HFO, but in the meantime, this is a path worthy of investigation.

  • Allgonquin,

    Whilst I share your scepticism on SO2, I think you miss the larger picture here.

    The dramatic reduction in CO & volatile organics, means that combustion is more efficient, leading to a reduction in fuel usage.

    Also the over emphasis on CO2 in the media, misses the point that, important as it is, other pollutants have a much more immediate effect on human health & the environment. Carbon Monoxide, Particulates, NOx and Organics all fall into that category.

    Ideally we would all stop using HFO, but in the meantime, this is a path worthy of investigation.

  • Doug

    Way OT, but when are you guys going to do a story on the new Ford PHEV and fuel cell hybrid?

  • Doug

    Way OT, but when are you guys going to do a story on the new Ford PHEV and fuel cell hybrid?

  • MeMySelfandYou

    Why do we need to combine one waste with another to reduce carbon or Co2 emmisions, the standard C A T on a cars exhaust does this already, doing the water treatment is simply passing one problem to another and we go round in circles all the time.

    To get our energy we still need to make steam from another fuel, this is a very wastefull way of doing it because the power plant runs all the time day or night, so lots of electricity is being lost along the lines, regardles of how its used and we are picking up the tab for their wasteful ways, when they should be paying for their own mess, its a no brainer.

    To try and mix a nox or a bad carbon to another fuel is also wasteful, what we need is not to make the waste in the first place, waste is waste no matter what it is.

    Incinerating anything cost time, money and fuel, the internal combustion engine is the most wasteful thing we have ever invented, about 80 % of a gallon of gas is wasted in the form of heat, this is why I say that the electic car is not good for the whole, as goes for the hyrid, your burning one fuel regardless of the efficiency to get the other energy.

    The end result is a waste somewhere and no oil or coal left, which I think should be rationed to those who are making the best use of the most precious comodity that the planet has made for us,

    If we have no lubrication we have no industry, the older type vedgatable fats and oils are simply not up to the higher temps that precise enginering standards and would grind to a halt within 48 hours without the high quality oils we have today.

  • MeMySelfandYou

    Why do we need to combine one waste with another to reduce carbon or Co2 emmisions, the standard C A T on a cars exhaust does this already, doing the water treatment is simply passing one problem to another and we go round in circles all the time.

    To get our energy we still need to make steam from another fuel, this is a very wastefull way of doing it because the power plant runs all the time day or night, so lots of electricity is being lost along the lines, regardles of how its used and we are picking up the tab for their wasteful ways, when they should be paying for their own mess, its a no brainer.

    To try and mix a nox or a bad carbon to another fuel is also wasteful, what we need is not to make the waste in the first place, waste is waste no matter what it is.

    Incinerating anything cost time, money and fuel, the internal combustion engine is the most wasteful thing we have ever invented, about 80 % of a gallon of gas is wasted in the form of heat, this is why I say that the electic car is not good for the whole, as goes for the hyrid, your burning one fuel regardless of the efficiency to get the other energy.

    The end result is a waste somewhere and no oil or coal left, which I think should be rationed to those who are making the best use of the most precious comodity that the planet has made for us,

    If we have no lubrication we have no industry, the older type vedgatable fats and oils are simply not up to the higher temps that precise enginering standards and would grind to a halt within 48 hours without the high quality oils we have today.

  • MeMySelfandYou

    Why do we need to combine one waste with another to reduce carbon or Co2 emmisions, the standard C A T on a cars exhaust does this already, doing the water treatment is simply passing one problem to another and we go round in circles all the time.

    To get our energy we still need to make steam from another fuel, this is a very wastefull way of doing it because the power plant runs all the time day or night, so lots of electricity is being lost along the lines, regardles of how its used and we are picking up the tab for their wasteful ways, when they should be paying for their own mess, its a no brainer.

    To try and mix a nox or a bad carbon to another fuel is also wasteful, what we need is not to make the waste in the first place, waste is waste no matter what it is.

    Incinerating anything cost time, money and fuel, the internal combustion engine is the most wasteful thing we have ever invented, about 80 % of a gallon of gas is wasted in the form of heat, this is why I say that the electic car is not good for the whole, as goes for the hyrid, your burning one fuel regardless of the efficiency to get the other energy.

    The end result is a waste somewhere and no oil or coal left, which I think should be rationed to those who are making the best use of the most precious comodity that the planet has made for us,

    If we have no lubrication we have no industry, the older type vedgatable fats and oils are simply not up to the higher temps that precise enginering standards and would grind to a halt within 48 hours without the high quality oils we have today.

  • MeMySelfandYou

    Why do we need to combine one waste with another to reduce carbon or Co2 emmisions, the standard C A T on a cars exhaust does this already, doing the water treatment is simply passing one problem to another and we go round in circles all the time.

    To get our energy we still need to make steam from another fuel, this is a very wastefull way of doing it because the power plant runs all the time day or night, so lots of electricity is being lost along the lines, regardles of how its used and we are picking up the tab for their wasteful ways, when they should be paying for their own mess, its a no brainer.

    To try and mix a nox or a bad carbon to another fuel is also wasteful, what we need is not to make the waste in the first place, waste is waste no matter what it is.

    Incinerating anything cost time, money and fuel, the internal combustion engine is the most wasteful thing we have ever invented, about 80 % of a gallon of gas is wasted in the form of heat, this is why I say that the electic car is not good for the whole, as goes for the hyrid, your burning one fuel regardless of the efficiency to get the other energy.

    The end result is a waste somewhere and no oil or coal left, which I think should be rationed to those who are making the best use of the most precious comodity that the planet has made for us,

    If we have no lubrication we have no industry, the older type vedgatable fats and oils are simply not up to the higher temps that precise enginering standards and would grind to a halt within 48 hours without the high quality oils we have today.