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Waste to Fuel- Bioenergy Open House web photo

Preview the transformation of food waste to fuel at bioenergy open house

M.C. Tilton
October 1, 2015

Explore the new facility that houses pilot research converting dining hall food waste into fuel and fertilizer during the “Waste to Fuel: Bioenergy Open House” from 2 - 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 7 at the Ohio University Compost Facility, 7876 Blackburn Rd., Athens, hosted by the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs Environmental Studies program.  

Ohio University feeds thousands of students, faculty, staff and visitors each day, and all of those meals produce leftovers. The bioenergy project featured at the open house, led by assistant professor Dr. Sarah Davis, aims to use those leftovers as a fuel source.  The Open House will feature an inside look at the anaerobic digester that converts waste and compost to fuel, as well as tours of the Ohio University Compost Facility and bioenergy crops planted in the Land Lab.

The new research facility is co-located with the campus compost operation, and is designed to test the feasibility of co-generating methane for fuel and compost from food waste. The new facility is equipped with five experimental digesters, rainwater collection system, and a hydroponics system. Visitors will explore the next generation of energy production and the University's system for transforming waste not only into fertilizer, but also a sustainable energy source.  

OHIO is home to the largest in-vessel composting system at any college or university in the nation. Campus food waste is already composted at a facility on The Ridges, but the facility receives more and more waste each year. While much of the compost is used in campus landscaping and some is sold to the public, an excess of compost is produced. The maturing compost is laid out in windrows behind the composting facility, where it continues to decompose, releasing greenhouse gases. Davis aims to convert that greenhouse gas into a fuel source.

In fall 2014, Dr. Davis received an Ohio University Foundation 1804 Fund grant to build the anaerobic digester contained in a glasshouse structure next to the composting facility. The goal is to process excess food waste and compost, harvest the methane produced and then use that methane as a fuel source. The waste from the digestion system serves as fertilizer for the hydroponics system and field crops.