Coventry University and Severn Trent in Partnership to Convert Sewage Waste into Hydrogen

Researchers from Coventry University are collaborating with Severn Trent and the Organics Group to turn sewage waste into a clean fuel for tankers and other vehicles.

Image Credit: Coventry University

This project will look to capture waste ammonia from Severn Trent’s sewage treatment facility and turn it into a valuable green fuel.

Severn Trent currently destroys the waste ammonia present in sewage due to its toxic properties but this programme of work could see it captured and converted into hydrogen.

The benefits of the process are twofold – firstly Severn Trent will gain a more efficient method of processing ammonia and secondly hydrogen will be produced as a clean fuel.

If trials are successful, Severn Trent has the potential to recover up to 10,000 tonnes of green ammonia from its wastewater treatment plants, which could be converted into 450 tonnes of hydrogen.

The Organics Group will be responsible for developing an ammonia-stripping unit, recovering the chemical from the sewage waste at Severn Trent’s facility. Coventry University researchers will then seek to convert this into hydrogen by forming a purified electrolyte from the ammonia, which could be processed to create nitrogen and hydrogen gas.

Dr John Graves, Associate Professor at the Institute for Future Transport and Cities, is leading the university’s contribution. He said: “We are delighted to be part of this ground breaking initiative with Severn Trent and Organics Group. The project will enable us to demonstrate that ammonia, which to date has had to be regarded as a waste product, could be processed in a more environmentally-friendly manner with the benefit of producing hydrogen, which has a number of useful applications. These include its use as a potential fuel for heavy vehicles that may not be suited to battery electrification.”

Peter Vale, Technical Lead in Severn Trent’s Innovation team said: “We are thrilled to be collaborating with Coventry University and Organics Group on this potentially transformative project that will help us move towards a more circular approach to treating wastewater on our sites, and deliver on our net zero carbon commitments.”

Patrick McGlead, Resilient Water Innovation for Smart Economy (REWAISE) Project Lead at Organics Group said: “Organics is overjoyed to be involved and very much looking forward to applying our ammonia recovery expertise and technology to this innovative project.”    

This project forms part of REWAISE, a €15m initiative funded by the EU Horizon 2020 programme, a consortium of 24 organisations lead REWAISE, providing expertise across the water management and academic sectors with the aim of developing a carbon-neutral water cycle. Both the Institute for Future Transport and Cities (IFTC) and the Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience (CAWR) are contributing partners in the consortium.

About IFTC: The Institute for Future Transport and Cities develops pioneering mobility solutions. From accelerating the progression towards zero-carbon transport and developing inclusive design practices to ensuring the safe implementation of autonomous transport solutions, IFTC is central to solving global mobility challenges. IFTC works closely with industry to ensure that its research has real-world applications, maintaining close relationships with leading businesses within the transport sector.

About CAWR: The Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience is driving innovative, transdisciplinary research on the understanding and development of resilient food and water systems internationally. Food and water security is increasingly threatened by factors such as climate and environmental change, loss of biodiversity, conflict and market volatility. Through its focus on food and water, the Centre’s research develops and integrates new knowledge in social, agroecological, hydrological and environmental processes, as well as the pivotal role that communities play in developing resilience.


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