Chevron company to power wastewater sludge facility

By Bryan Sims
Chevron Energy Solutions, a subsidiary of Chevron USA Inc., has teamed with Danbury, Conn.-based FuelCell Energy Inc. to build a facility that will convert wastewater sludge and kitchen grease into renewable energy to power an adjacent wastewater treatment plant owned by the city of Rialto, Calif. The estimated $15.1 million project calls for FuelCell Energy to provide three 300-kilowatt fuel cell units for Chevron's facility, which will generate electricity from methane without combustion and convert it into hydrogen. The hydrogen will then be cogenerated into electricity and steam to power and heat the aging wastewater treatment facility.

According to Chevron Energy Solutions President Jim Davis, construction of the facility began May 8, and start-up operations are expected to begin sometime in early 2008. Davis said the facility will reduce landfill waste and decrease annual energy costs by $800,000, as well as reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 5.5 million tons per year. FuelCell Energy sold its fuel cell technology to the city of Rialto through Chevron Energy Solutions, which will maintain and operate the plant after it is complete. This is Chevron Energy Solutions' second project of this nature, with the first completed in Millbre, Calif., last year.

"This is basically one of those great examples of applying innovation to proven energy technologies in a unique way to benefit the community of Rialto," Davis said. "By looking at wastewater treatment operations holistically, we're helping Rialto and other cities transform an urban waste into an asset."

Once the project is complete, a fats, oils and greases (FOG) receiving station will provide an effective disposal alternative, reducing the amount of FOG sent to landfills. Meanwhile, the fuel cell plant and other energy-efficient improvements will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 11 million pounds of carbon dioxide annually, equivalent to removing 1,080 cars from the road each year.