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Spanish firms make natural gas from sewage

Automaker SEAT, water company Aqualia develop biomethane to use in NGVs

Published: October 26, 2016, 9:30 PM
Updated: December 7, 2016, 5:47 PM

Drive Green SEAT Leon

An innovative alternative fuel initiative out of Spain is exploring ways to power NGV vehicles through a new biogas created from wastewater — sewage, if you will.

refuelling biomethane SEAT Leon

Spanish automaker SEAT and water management company Aqualia have joined forces to develop the SMART Green Gas 5-year project that aims to extract renewable biofuel in the form of methane from wastewater, and then use it to fuel vehicles that run on compressed natural gas (CNG or NGV, depending on your jurisdiction).

The two have begun pilot tests in the wastewater treatment facility in Jerez de la Frontera, with Aqualia conducting the necessary testing of the extraction and pumping of biomethane, with testing performed on a couple SEAT Leon TGI 4-door hatchbacks.

The main objective of the SMART Green Gas project is to promote research into alternative fuels and, in particular, renewable gas that will help reduce CO2 tailpipe emissions substantially in relation to that of gasoline or diesel fuelled engines.

"Fostering the creation of renewable alternative fuels, which help promote future environmental improvements and the long-term use of vehicles in cities are an integral part of SEAT’s CNG strategy”, said Dr. Matthias Rabe, SEAT Vice-President for R&D. “With this development and collaboration project with Aqualia, SEAT has become the first brand in the country’s automotive sector to use 100% Spanish biomethane obtained from waste water.”

The secondary objective is to promote the creation of circular economies in regions serviced by local wastewater facilities, providing more autonomy and sustainability to cities that implement the system in their wastewater treatment plants. SMART Green Gas aims to obtain locally-produced, renewable fuel that can be used to power vehicles or to be injected into the natural gas-distribution network.

“We are working to change the current paradigm, leaving behind the model in which (wastewater) treatment implies a significant energy cost. This project is the result of the intense research activity developed by Aqualia to obtain valuable resources from the treatment process,” explains Aqualia general director Félix Parra. “Developing the SMART Green Gas project with a medium sized waste water treatment plant could potentially lead to the daily production of a million litres of biofuel, enough to power more than 300 vehicles. This would enable cities to fuel their network of urban buses, bin lorries, police cars or ambulances, among others.”

There are other partners in the project — the Centre for Industrial Technological Development (CDTI), Gas Natural Fenosa and Naturgas EDP, the Catalan Institute for Water Research (ICRA), and universities of Girona, Valladolid and Santiago de Compostela.

Providing service to 22.5 million customers, Aqualia is Spain’s largest company in the water treatment sector, the third largest private water company in Europe, and the seventh largest in the world.