This fall, Camden’s wastewater-treatment facility will be heated by sewage.
Up to 150 million gallons of sewage are pumped from around the county into the treatment facility in Camden’s Waterfront South neighborhood every day.
It travels through pipes buried 15 to 20 feet underground, so it stays warm during the winter.
Andy Kricun, executive director of the Camden County Municipal Utilities Authority, said a pilot geothermal project will put that heat to use.
“The idea is to convey the sewage through a heat exchanger to take advantage of the latent heat,” Kricun said. “And then use that in lieu of a boiler to reduce dependence on natural gas or fuel oil.”
Raw sewage will be filtered to remove solid waste before it is run through a heating/ cooling loop, where a heat pump will transfer captured warmth to boilers.
Kricun said once the system is operational in late fall, he expects it to meet about 40 percent of the heating needs for the facility, saving $80,000 a year on energy costs.
Similar geothermal systems using raw sewage are in use in China, but Kricun said this is the first project of its kind in the U.S.
“That, I think, is a new twist,” said Phillip Schoen, head of a geothermal company in Oklahoma. “I think that adds some new excitement in a way that gives us another use of the technology which we haven’t done before.”
Schoen has used treated effluent to heat and cool a naval base in Virginia.
Utility PSE&G gave $1 million to launch the project.
The Camden County Municipal Utilities Authority hopes it will become a model for similar projects around the country.