Fatberg to Fuel

Sept. 27, 2018

A fatberg is a greasy gelatinous mountain. The pestilent globs can reach 140 tons, lurking in sewer systems from London and Melbourne to Baltimore. And not only are they a nuisance, they’re costly to remove.

These colossal clogs develop when fats sent down sewer pipes intermingle and congeal with solids such as wipes, sanitary napkins, condoms, and food scraps. They cause massive obstructions and overflows, vexing public works officials and costing taxpayers millions.

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However, a Canadian research team has recently developed a remarkable solution—a procedure that converts the fat, oils, and grease (FOG) into usable energy. What sets this team’s discovery apart from others is that its system can transform the fatbergs’ FOG into fuel conveniently within the pipeline.


The process involves heating the grease inside the pipe to between 90° and 110° Celsius. Then the team adds hydrogen peroxide to break down organic matter and release fatty acids. At this point in the process, compounds and nutrients can be broken down by bacteria to produce methane. A recent trial confirmed the effective conversion. The study is published in the journal Water, Air, & Soil Pollution.

“This method would help to recover and reuse waste cooking oil as a source of energy,” team member Asha Srinivasan, an engineering researcher at the University of British Columbia, told NPR.

The team is currently working on trials at municipal sewage treatment plants and dairy farms in an effort to develop a full-scale system within the next two years. Once established, their hope is that the process can be easily adopted by other sewage treatment systems.

What are your impressions? How does your municipality deal with FOG? Is grease recycling a solution that would benefit your organization?
About the Author

Laura Sanchez

Laura Sanchez is the editor of Distributed Energy and Water Efficiency magazines.

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