ST. PETERSBURG (FOX 13) - A United Nations University study estimated the value of turning human waste into energy at up to $9 billion globally.
The city of St. Petersburg may be among the first to capture some of that value.
"We're projecting that if we do this, we'll save $40 million over 20 years' present worth" Water Resources Sustainability Manager Steven Marshall told FOX 13. "It's really catching on because of the value of the product."
Marshall was explaining a waste-to-energy project started in 2010, and now nearly ready for city council approval.
The $80 million-plus project would reconstruct the city's southwest wastewater treatment facility and add components to render the city's sewage sludge into a harmless, high-grade fertilizer, producing biogas in the process.
"Molecularly, (biogas) is the same thing as natural gas" Marshall said. "But the difference, and the key point, is it's renewable natural gas. It's not from fossil fuels."
The city has already replaced about half of its fleet of sanitation trucks to run on natural gas. It has purchased property on 26th Avenue South for a "fast-fill" biogas fueling station.
There are also plans for big pipes to carry sludge from the city's two other wastewater treatment plants to the southwest facility.
Marshall said final city council approval might be sought in mid-to-late December. Construction could start as early as January of 2016 and be finished in about three years.