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New Process Developed by GE, Sasol Producing Biogas from Wastewater

Sasol, a South African chemical and energy company, and General Electric’s GE Power & Water have developed technology that will clean wastewater while also producing biogas as a by-product.

The technology, known as Anaerobic Membrane Bioreactor Technology (AnMBR), will be further developed at a new demonstration plant at Sasol's R&D Campus at its Sasol One Site in Sasolburg, the companies say.

The partnership with GE leverages GE's ecomagination-qualified ZeeWeed 500 membrane and decades of membrane bioreactor experience, and Sasol's expertise in biological treatment of effluents derived from the Fischer-Tropsch (FT) process, a key component of gas-to-liquids (GTL) conversion technology.

The technology is expected to be commercially ready in early 2015. Sasol will have exclusive rights to apply this technology to FT-based plants whilst GE will have the right to market the technology for other industrial uses.

AnMBR involves anaerobic microorganisms that can survive in environments devoid of oxygen, such as sediment layers on floors of lakes, dams and the ocean, the companies say. These organisms are nearly ubiquitous — found, among other places, in the human digestive system, under the earth's surface, in deserts and on mountain peaks.

One of the by-products from the FT process is an effluent stream rich in organic acids and alcohols. Traditional (aerobic) treatment technologies treat this effluent by converting the organics to carbon dioxide. The benefit of the AnMBR is that the microorganisms convert these organics into a methane-rich biogas that can be used for power generation, which results in an overall efficiency improvement in the GTL process in addition to producing a valuable product (power). Another benefit of the AnMBR is that it produces almost 80 percent less waste biosolids than the previous generation process, the companies say.

Sasol pioneered the treatment of effluents from the GTL process in Ras Laffan, Qatar, where the waste is treated and recycled for use as irrigation water in the city of Ras Laffan. The company’s second-generation offering, which is currently being designed for the U.S. GTL facility, is the aerobic Membrane Bioreactor (MBR).

In related news, UK-based startup and SB London Innovation Open (SBIOL) finalist O2E Technologies has developed a full waste-to-energy conversion system that turns various types of solid waste into new products, such as plastic into fuel (through a process called catalytic depolymerization) or food waste into compost for use in vertical growing systems. Join us on November 18, when the winner of SBIOL will be announced at the SB London Conference.


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