Transforming Wastewater into Crude Oil

May 26, 2017

Using hydrothermal liquefaction, the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory created crude oil out of dirty water. 

Muck, sludge, sewage—what looks as useless as dirty water on its face may one day be the next biocrude oil that powers our buildings.

By using a technology known as hydrothermal liquefaction, The Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory successfully mimicked geological conditions the Earth uses to create crude oil.

When using high temperatures and large amounts of pressure, the geological conditions occurred under the Earth over millions of years were found to be easily replicated in minutes by using water, oxygen and petroleum refining operations.

Wastewater treatment plans treat approximately 34 billion gallons of sewage every day in the U.S. alone. Estimations calculated by the DOE show that this process could generate 30 million barrels of oil every year.

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