Monster Whitechapel fatberg given new lease of biodiesel life

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Bin it wipe poster

The monster 250-metre long Whitechapel fatberg will be converted into around 10,000 litres of biodiesel, Thames Water has confirmed today.


The congealed mass of fat, oil, grease, wet wipes and sanitary products discovered blocking an east London sewer will create enough environmentally-friendly energy to power 350 double-decker Routemaster buses for a day.


So far around a third of the 130-tonne fatberg, which hit headlines around the world last week, has been removed from the bowels of Whitechapel Road, with work now expected to finish in October due to damage it has caused to the Victorian sewer.


Thames Water waste network manager Alex Saunders said: “It may be a monster, but the Whitechapel fatberg deserves a second chance. We’ve therefore teamed up with leading waste to power firm Argent Energy to transform what was once an evil, gut-wrenching, rancid blob into pure green fuel.


“It’s the perfect solution for the environment and our customers as we work towards our target to self-generate 33 per cent of the electricity we use from renewable sources by 2020. It also means the Whitechapel fatberg will get a new lease of life as renewable, biodegradable fuel powering an engine instead of causing the misery of sewer flooding.”


Tanker loads of the infamous fatberg have been broken apart with high-powered jets and sucked from the Whitechapel Road sewer since work started in early September. It will now be transferred to a specialist plant to be processed with other fats, oils and greases, and transformed into biodiesel – a cleaner-burning, greenhouse gas reducing, replacement for fossil diesel fuel. Other unflushable items such as baby wipes, nappies, cotton buds and sanitary products – which should never be flushed – will be disposed of.


Alex added: “We have a problem with fatbergs, both in sewer networks and at our sewage treatment works. Previously, we’ve either extracted the fatberg out of the pipes and sent it to landfill, or broken it down and put it back through the sewage treatment process. Even though they are our worst enemy, and we want them dead completely, bringing fatbergs back to life when we do find them in the form of biodiesel is a far better solution for everyone.”


The project with Argent Energy, which already helps to power bus fleets in the supply area, will run alongside Thames Water’s ‘Bin it – don’t block it’ campaign. This aims to prevent fatbergs building up in the sewers in the first place.


Thames Water is one of the biggest producers of green energy inside the M25 and is working towards self-generating 33 per cent of the electricity it uses from renewable sources by 2020. Last year the company produced enough electricity to power more than 86,000 homes, a town the size of Reading, through solar power, including Europe’s largest floating solar panel array on its QE2 reservoir, wind power and expanding the number of sewage treatment sites where thermal hydrolysis is used to generate poo-power.