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Fatbergs to fuel: Turning Britain's sewer grease into biodiesel

Tuesday, August 29, 2017 - 02:28

UK-based Argent Energy is taking the putrid and degraded fats clogging up British sewers and turning it into a high-grade biodiesel, as Matthew Stock reports.

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This tanker has just arrived from Liverpool... with a rather rancid cargo. UPSOT (SOUNDBITE) (English) HEATHER SWINBANK, UK SOURCING MANAGER FOR ARGENT ENERGY, SAYING: "It's come from a waste water treatment works, that's where everybody's sewage waste and anything you can put down a kitchen sink, any cooking residues or things like that. So it all goes down the sewer, all accumulates in a sewer treatment works and, basically, the fat clogs pipes as it would do an artery." These so-called 'fatbergs' can cause blockages and flooding. This 15-tonne fatberg - a conglealed mass of fat mixed with insoluble items flushed down toilets - was discovered by Thames Water in south London in 2013. Normally it would go to landfill, but for Argent Energy it's just the raw material they need to make a high quality biodiesel. SOUNDBITE) (English) DICKON POSNETT, DIRECTOR of CORPORATE AFFAIRS AT ARGENT ENERGY, SAYING: "We're taking these highly degraded things, including fat bergs from the sewers. And with this plant here, turning it into a very high-grade biodiesel.... We think it's the only one in the world that can handle such degraded, horrible, smelly, raw materials - including fatbergs; the fat dug out of sewers, out of water treatment works - the fat and scum that comes out of that. We can deal with that and can turn it into an oil and put it through the biodiesel process." Biodiesel from waste fat isn't new, but Argent says they can transform even the most rotten of raw materials. A five-step sieving and filtering process removes all solid material, before the oil is distilled into a biodiesel ready to be blended with conventional fuel. Renewable biodiesel is helping reducing dependence on regular petroleum, and is a much more environmentally friendly fuel. Most of the world's supply derived from soybean oil. But Argent Energy believe there's enough in Britain's sewers to keep them in ready supply. SOUNDBITE) (English) HEATHER SWINBANK, UK SOURCING MANAGER FOR ARGENT ENERGY, SAYING: "My role within Argent Energy is actually to go out there, speak to the water companies, speak to food manufacturers and different people who are putting this stuff down the sewer, and bring it here to Argent Energy to make biodiesel out of it. So, I guess you could call me a fat hunter!" Waste water companies stress that the public needs know the problems pouring fat down sinks causes. But Argent Energy says they're offering a practical, green, solution to a very messy problem.

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Fatbergs to fuel: Turning Britain's sewer grease into biodiesel

Tuesday, August 29, 2017 - 02:28