Portland ‘going to be turning poop into power’

Methane at treatment plant would be converted to renewable natural gas

Portland City Commissioner Nick Fish, April 19, 2017 (KOIN)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The Portland City Council OK’d a plan that will turn methane waste into fuel and generate revenue for sewer- and water rate payers.

“We’re going to be turning poop into power,” City Commissioner Nick Fish said.

Excess methane gas is flared at the Columbia Boulevard Wastewater Treatment Plant, sending carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere. A proposed project would eliminate flaring and convert all the methane into reusable gas. (Portland Tribune)
Excess methane gas is flared at the Columbia Boulevard Wastewater Treatment Plant, sending carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere. A proposed project would eliminate flaring and convert all the methane into reusable gas. (Portland Tribune)

Currently, the city has to burn off all remaining methane from its sewage treatment plants. This new project will convert that methane into renewable natural gas that will ultimately be used to replace diesel fuel in city trucks.

It’s a concept with a catchphrase uttered by Fish, who oversees the Bureau of Environmental Services: “We have figured out a way to take poop and turn it into power.”

The idea played out like a royal flush for Fish and his fellow commissioners. The project will modify the city’s sewage treatment plant on Columbia Boulevard to capture the methane waste now burning into the atmosphere.

The Columbia Boulevard Wastewater Treatment Plant in Portland, April 19, 2017 (KOIN)
The Columbia Boulevard Wastewater Treatment Plant in Portland, April 19, 2017 (KOIN)

“Just think about that,” Fish said. “We’re taking waste and turning it into cash and along the way we’re replacing dirty diesel with clean energy.”

Once converted to natural gas, the fuel will be used to power more than 150 city trucks now running on diesel.

“The more we can do to clean up diesel pollution,” said Jana Gastellum of the Oregon Environmental Council, “the more it improves our health, and it’s from every age group.”

Mike Jordan, the director of BES, said succinctly, “Our gaol is to have our methane replace dirty diesel.”

The city claims the project will cut greenhouse gas emissions by 21,000 tons a year while generating between $3 million and $10 million in annual revenue from the sales of surplus gas through a partnership with Northwest Natural.

“So the people who pay their water-sewer bill every year are actually going to see a return, which will help us stabilize rates and will benefit them,” Fish told KOIN 6 News.

With that expected revenue, the $12 million project is expected to pay for itself in about 3 to 4 years.

An overhead view of the Columbia Wasterwater Treatment Plant in Portland (KOIN, file)
An overhead view of the Columbia Wasterwater Treatment Plant in Portland (KOIN, file)