University of Minnesota Researchers Turn Scum Into Savings by Producing Biodiesel

June 29, 2017 11:01 AM

Researchers at the University of Minnesota have found a way to turn scum into savings, something they said has never been done before.

And yes, you read that right -- scum.


It's actually a technical term for the white, muddy biproduct produced in wastewater treatment facilities, like at the Metro Plant in St. Paul.

"Scum is currently being trucked out and landfilled at the expense of the taxpayer," Erik Anderson, a University of Minnesota doctoral candidate, said.

Now -- as a result of the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Science pilot program -- Anderson said the biproduct can be converted to biodiesel that can then be used to power utility vehicles at the same wastewater treatment facilities that produced the scum.

Down the road, researchers believe the process could offset about 20 percent of the Metro Plant's diesel purchase per year, potentially saving taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars.

"So they wouldn't be changing their process at all," Anderson said. "They would just be reducing their landfill costs and then the environmental effects that go along with it. "

While the process is currently still a scaled-down pilot program, researchers hope to build a full-scale program at the Metro Plant in the coming months. While a finalized deal has yet to be worked out, in theory researchers believe they could take the plant's scum, process it at their own cost and then sell it back to the plant for the current market price of petroleum diesel.


Josh Rosenthal

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