Researchers at the US Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have developed a process to produce a “biocrude” oil from sewage waste. The biocrude can be further refined into liquid fuels similar to petroleum products.

The process, called hydrothermal processing, can convert organic material into biocrude oil, natural gas or both, with potentially more than 99% conversion of organics. The only byproduct is clear, sterile water.

The process uses heat, pressure, water and time – the same elements which form fossil fuels – but amplifies the conditions so that the conversion occurs in a much shorter timeframe.

The technology, which is specifically designed for wet feed stocks, has been described as “highly disruptive” in an evaluation by the Water Environment & Reuse Foundation. It has been licenced to Genifuel who are working with Metro Vancouver to construct a demonstration plant.