Fat To Fuel London Water Treatment

Instead of being left to clog up London’s sewage pipes, fat will be used to clean the city’s water.

In a 20-year deal valued at more than £200 million, the company 2OC will put FOGs — those are fats, oils and greases — to work at a new combined heat and power plant. The plant will produce some 130 gigawatt-hours of electricity annually, 75 GWh of which will go to Thames Water to power the UK’s biggest sewage works and a nearby desalination plant at Beckton in East London, and the rest of which will provide power for about 17,000 average-sized homes through sale to the national grid.

“This project is a win-win,” Piers Clark, commercial director for Thames Water, said in a statement. “Renewable power for two of our critical services and a means of tackling the ongoing operational problem of so-called ‘fatbergs’ which are responsible for over 40,000 blockages a year in our sewage network.”

It will cost £70 million to build the combined heat and power plant, which is expected to go online in 2015. Thames Water said the plant will run at “a world beating electrical efficiency in excess of 65%” with additional heat energy recovered to give it an overall efficiency “in the high 90s percent.”

Thames Water said it will collect “leftover, low-grade cooking oil and food fat” captured in fat traps at restaurants and at points within the London sewer system. That will apparently amount to 30 tons every day, “enough to fill a six meter-long shipping container.” Additional fuel for the plant will come from vegetable oil and tallow.

According to The Guardian, the “fatbergs” that Clark referred to cost London £1 million every month to clear.

“This is good for us, the environment, Thames Water and its customers,” said Andrew Mercer, chief executive at CO2. “Our renewable power and heat from waste oils and fats is fully sustainable. When Thames doesn’t need our output, it will be made available to the grid meaning that power will be sourced, generated and used in London by Londoners.”

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.

  • Edilberto Durano

    Wow. This is a rather odd but fascinating discovery. I hope it will be effective!
    Ed of AllSeasonsNV.com