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BETO report identifies biofuel/bioproducts opportunities from wet and gaseous waste: ~22.2B GGE/year

The US Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Bioenergy Technologies Office has published a report, titled Biofuels and Bioproducts from Wet and Gaseous Waste Streams: Challenges and Opportunities. The report is the first comprehensive assessment of the resource potential and technology opportunities provided by wet and gaseous feedstocks, including wastewater treatment-derived sludge and biosolids, animal manure, food waste, inedible fats and greases, biogas, and carbon dioxide streams.

These feedstocks can be converted into renewable natural gas, diesel, and aviation fuels, or into valuable bioproducts.

Complementary to the 2016 Billion-Ton Report (earlier post) this new resource assessment, conducted by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, concludes that wet and gaseous organic waste streams represent a substantial and underutilized set of feedstocks for biofuels and biopower.


The analysis found that the United States has the potential to use 77 million dry tons of wet waste per year, which would generate about 1,300 trillion British thermal units (Btu) of energy. Also, gaseous feedstocks (which cannot be “dried” and therefore cannot be reported in dry tons) and other feedstocks assessed in the report could produce an additional 1,300 trillion Btu of energy—bringing the total to nearly 2.6 quadrillion Btu annually, or about 22.2 billion gallons of gasoline equivalent (GGE). For perspective, in 2015, the United States’ total primary energy consumption was about 97.7 quadrillion Btu.

Spatial distribution and influent range of 14,581 USEPA 2012 Clean Water Needs Survey (CWNS) catalogued treatmenet plants.Click to enlarge.

BETO is exploring of a broad range of possibilities to identify the potential for producing market-relevant platforms. Many waste-to-energy technologies are at an early stage and, therefore, could potentially benefit from DOE’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program, which increases US private-sector commercialization of innovations to build a strong national economy. SBIR technical topic areas for both the fiscal year 2016 (topics 10 b & c) and fiscal year 2017 (topics 14 a & b) included aspects of converting waste to energy.

Not only are wet and gaseous waste streams available now and unlikely to diminish in the near future, finding a beneficial use for them often helps to address the unique and local challenges of disposing of them. Alternative strategies are increasingly necessary due to decreasing landfill capacity and stringent disposal regulations. Also, these waste streams are often located where energy is in highest demand. For these reasons, waste feedstocks could help jump-start the US bioeconomy via niche markets. Research, development, and scale-up of technologies to utilize waste resources is part of BETO’s work to develop domestic, sustainable, cost-competitive biofuels and bioproducts.



Just dairy farm waste can power the farm, we waste a lot in this country.


This is where of gov's could extend assistance and be doing useful work.

"Many waste-to-energy technologies are at an early stage and, therefore, could potentially benefit from DOE’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program, which increases US private-sector commercialization of innovations to build a strong national economy."

Create new jobs, clean water, energy and encourage innovation with longer term cash flow positive outcomes.
As witnessed by many similar industry sectors already seeing impressive returns.


Projects like these are not cost effective as compared to other choices. The challenge is how to improve the economics. Cost and availability of capital is but one. Maintaining the premium value of the product must be supported. These products should be more precious as compared to the competition that doesn't concern itself with waste. So, in general the economic environment of this activity should be improved. That would be to decrease liability, make the regulation industry friendly to these activities, implement the cost of recycling burden on generators of waste while at the same time improve the financial benefit to invest in purchasing capabilities to make waste energy. This should be priority stuff and as such will become normal practices within designing systems. Our decision makers will practice thoughts on what to do with waste stream instead of how to get rid of it. The decision of whether it's more economical to dump waste may not be an option.


If fossil methane sells for 50 cents per therm then bio methane should sell for $1? The extra 50 cents would have to come from somewhere, the tax payer or the natural gas producers. If it comes from the natural gas producers they would charge more which is the whole point.

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