Waste causing sea glanders finds new use as an energy source in Turkey

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Scientists from Middle East Technical University (METU) and Yıldız Technical University in Turkey have come together for a new renewable energy project. Their inspiration is sea snot, or marine mucilage, which suffocated the Sea of ​​Marmara all summer.

This thick layer of slimy substance, a result of pollution, was devastating to marine life and drew attention to marine pollutants. Sludge from waste treatment facilities is one such pollutant, and scientists plan to turn it into syngas, hydrogen, heat and electricity through the development of high technology.

Supported by the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TÃœBITAK), the project will be a world first and is expected to provide a major source of income for the economy by exploiting organic waste.

Professor Iskender Gökalp from METU and Professor Didem Özçimen from Technical University of Yıldız, two experts, respectively specialized in energy and environmental technologies and bioengineering, will lead the team of scientists.

Sea glanders itself was already converted to gas in 2018 by Turkish scientists, while plans are also underway to harness the potential of sea glanders as a fertilizer. Sea glanders are essentially a mass of microorganisms enriched by untreated waste components dumped into the sea, a problem that has increased this year in the landlocked sea.

Gökalp told the Anadolu Agency (AA) on Monday that the Sea of ​​Marmara is under enormous pollution pressure, due to pollutants from the Black Sea transported to the sea via the Bosphorus and pollutants resulting from population growth, industrialization and agricultural activities.

“Household waste and industrial wastewater are the main triggers of the phytoplankton boom causing sea glanders. For a permanent solution to sea glanders and to tackle the problem at its source, the wastewater discharged into the sea should be reduced in their pollution load. To achieve this, we need a new scientific approach to recycling practices, ”he said.

“We want to pursue a holistic approach to the mucilage problem and show that a solution is feasible if you design appropriate systems,” he said.

The work of Gökalp and Özçimen focuses on very wet sludge discharged from wastewater treatment plants, which is very difficult to remove. Gökalp says they will allow for proper disposal while harnessing the energy potential of organic waste, through what he called a hydrothermal carbonization method, to convert it to biomass. He says that the joint gasification of lignite and hydrochar allows the production of synthetic gas and hydrogen. “Considering the large amount of sludge from wastewater treatment facilities, this organic waste can easily be considered an important source of renewable energy,” he said.

More importantly, the project will help reduce the possibility of accumulation of new marine cod, as it will reduce the nutrient load in the waste that triggers the mucilage boom in sewage, according to Gökalp.

Turkey’s investments in clean energy have reached $ 66 billion (TL 559 billion), with renewables accounting for more than 53% of the country’s total installed electric capacity, according to data released in September. Installed renewable capacity stood at 52,353 megawatts (MW) out of a total capacity of 98,493 MW at the end of last month, according to data compiled by Electricity Transmission Company (TEIAÅž).

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