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Turn wastewater from winery into hydrogen: microbial electrolysis demonstrated by Penn State at Napa Wine Co.

Oakvilie, Calif.--A new process using a microbial electrolysis system developed at Pennsylvania State University might allow wineries to convert wastewater into hydrogen gas for use in vehicles and generating electricity. It could also convert municipal wastewater into energy--and even desalinate seawater.

Winery and other waste already can produce energy, primarily as methane, which can be burned but emits carbon dioxide. When hydrogen is burned, the only waste is water vapor.

The first demonstration of a renewable method for hydrogen production from wastewater is underway at the Napa Wine Co. in Oakville. The refrigerator-sized hydrogen generator processes wastewater with bacteria and a small amount of electrical energy to convert organic material leftover from winemaking into hydrogen, according to Bruce E. Logan, Kappe Professor of environmental engineering at Penn State, who developed the process. "This is a demonstration to prove we can continuously generate renewable hydrogen and to study the engineering factors affecting the system performance," he said.

Currently the amount of hydrogen is too little for energy use; it will be vented, except for a small amount used in a hydrogen fuel cell. Winery wastewater comes from winemaking, cleaning equipment, grape disposal and other processes. Andy Hoxsey, managing partner of Napa Wine Co., is an ardent environmentalist who farms 600 acres of vines organically. The company already has on-site wastewater treatment and recycling.

When Hoxsey learned about the Penn State work, he invited the university to use his winery as a demonstration site. "Our wastewater is ideal, because we don't use chemicals or solvents, so the wastewater isn't contaminated with metals and other toxic compounds," he noted.

Logan added, "We chose a winery because it is a natural tourist attraction. People go there all the time to experience winemaking and wine, and now they can also see a demonstration of how to make clean hydrogen gas from agricultural wastes." The demonstration microbial electrolysis plant is a continuous flow system that will process about 1,000 liters of wastewater per day.

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Title Annotation:NOVEMBER NEWS
Comment:Turn wastewater from winery into hydrogen: microbial electrolysis demonstrated by Penn State at Napa Wine Co.(NOVEMBER NEWS)
Author:Franson, Paul
Publication:Wines & Vines
Date:Nov 1, 2009
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