Biogas will help solve urban sewage crisis

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has awarded a $1.14 million grant to install an innovative new sewage treatment solution to Durban, South Africa. The innovative generator is able to process sewage into nutrients, biogas and clean water.

University of South Florida associate professor Dr Daniel Yeh designed his innovative NEWgenerator in response to the stress mass urbanisation puts on water and sewer lines. Already deployed in India, the NEWgenerator generates nutrients, energy in the form of biogas, and water by safely recovering them from wastewater containing fecal organic matter and urine.

In Durban, the generator will accompany a Community Ablution Block (CAB), which is a modified shipping container with toilets, showers and sinks. South Africa’s government provides these CABs to informal settlements lacking in such amenities. However, as populations grow rapidly, CABs are putting a strain on the sewage system.

According to a statement from the University of South Florida, the NEWgenerator will aim to allow CABs to operate without being hooked up to sewer lines.


Energy from anaerobic digestion

The NEWgenerator uses anaerobic digestion to convert organic material into biogas. It mimics a miniature wastewater treatment plant, but eliminates the usual energy intensive aeration tank that blows air to break down pollutants and chemicals.

When coupled with solar panels, the biogas produced allows the NEWgenerator to produce electricity and run independently.

Clean water is generated thorough a multistage disinfection process. Once cleaned, this water can be used for toilet flushing in the CABs, or for irrigation. Meanwhile, nutrients extracted from the wastewater will be used to produce fertiliser for local community gardens.

Dr. Yeh and a University of South Florida team will bring two versions of the NEWgenerator to Durban. The first will be an updated version of the unit used in India in 2016, which supplied 100 users a day. The second will increase the NEWgenerator’s capacity to serve 1,000 users a day. Both will be connected to CABs in Durban.



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