Could the solution to our alternative fuel woes be found in the crap you flush down the toilet and the food you throw away? A pilot project using bio-methane produced from a sewage treatment plant has led to the deployment of the U.K.’s first poop-powered airport shuttle.
The 40-passenger “Bio Bus” as it’s being called, is run by the Bath Bus Company to ferry passengers between Bristol and the Bath airport. On a full tank of bio-methane, the bus has a claimed driving distance of about 186 miles using nothing but methane captured via the anaerobic digestion process. The bus, run by a partnership between GENeco and Wessex Water, will ferry an estimated 10,000 passengers per year without using a drop of petrol or diesel fuel.
According to Wessex Water, a single passenger’s annual food and sewage waste produces enough methane for all of 37 miles of driving (though you can also collect gas from piggies too!), and the plant produces about 17 million cubic-feet of methane annual, which is enough energy to power about 8,300 homes. Propane is added and the CO2 is removed to the biogas, giving it a much lower carbon footprint than traditional natural gas vehicles, and the fuel is actually stored in tanks above the passengers’ heads.
Can poop be the power of the future? Perhaps in small doses, but you don’t have to be a math whiz to see that the numbers don’t come even close to meeting the energy needs of the world.
Still, every little bit helps chip away at a century of fossil fuel dependency. Lcally-made bio-methane could become a player for public and private transit fleets looking to minimize their carbon footprint, or in areas where access to conventional fuels is difficult and dangerous. Locally made fuel from nothing but poop? It could literally be a lifesaver.