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Clean Power Image Credit: Thames Water

Published on May 14th, 2013 | by Zachary Shahan

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“Fatbergs” In London Sewers To Be Transformed Into Electricity



This job is not for those with a weak stomach. The man in the picture below is Danny Brackley, a sewer flusher. He is shoveling out a “fatberg” from under Leicester Square.

Image Credit: Thames Water

Image Credit: Thames Water

Oil and fat accumulating under the streets of London is apparently causing a bit of an issue. However, the city is going to burn these fatbergs in order to create electricity — about 130 GWh of electricity per year. A power station at Beckton in east London will be the one to burn the fatbergs.

Supposedly, there’s no smoke and no smell from the burning of the fatbergs.

“The water company has agreed to buy 75 GWh of this output to run Beckton sewage works, which serves 3.5 million people, and the nearby desalination plant, operated in times of drought or other emergencies,” BBC notes.

By the way, if you think Danny Brackley is one lonely, sad fatberg shoveler, you’re a bit wrong. There are 40 such shovelers that go around shoveling fatbergs. They clear out about 80,000 blockages a year. The work costs approximately $1.5 million per month.



The fatbergs are created by cooking oil and grease that cools and congeals down in the sewers. However, there’s more in there than that. Rob Smith, Thames Water’s technical coordinator, notes that they contain ”everything that goes into the sewer and lots of things that shouldn’t.” Now that a utility has a use for these monsters, it’s going to have “fat traps” installed under the sinks of contributing restaurants.

You have to wonder how many fatbergs are living under the streets of other cities. Will others follow London’s lead?

Check out more “waste to energy” stories here.

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About the Author

is the director of CleanTechnica, the most popular cleantech-focused website in the world, and Planetsave, a world-leading green and science news site. He has been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and he has been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, and wind energy for the past four years or so. Aside from his work on CleanTechnica and Planetsave, he's the Network Manager for their parent organization – Important Media – and he's the Owner/Founder of Solar Love, EV Obsession, and Bikocity. To connect with Zach on some of your favorite social networks, go to ZacharyShahan.com and click on the relevant buttons.



  • Logan

    He looks miserable, but I’m sure he gets a hefty paycheck.

  • Bill_Woods

    1.2 $/W — not bad.

    But why not make bio-diesel?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Dill-Weed/100000216524046 Dill Weed

    Ole Danny boy finally made it!

  • http://www.facebook.com/jhildenminton James Hilden-Minton

    Hats off to Danny and all the fatberg shovelers.

  • Kevin Adams

    Thank goodness fat floats. Can you imagine those sewers if it didn’t?

    “Lennie said softly, “We could live offa the fatta the lan’.” -Of Mice and Men

  • Bob_Wallace

    And this, children, is another reason you want to get an education.

    Otherwise you could end up being a fatberg shoveler. Add that to the list of jobs including dead cow disassembler , fatburger flipper, ….

    • Ronald Brak

      This comment would be less tragic if I didn’t remember Danny from my years at Eton.

  • Ross

    There’s a great Seven Wonders of the Industrial World BBC documentary ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seven_Wonders_of_the_Industrial_World#The_Sewer_King ) about the creation of the London sewer system and its brilliant Chief Engineer Joseph Bazalgette.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jordan.duke.54 Jordan Duke

    If only there was a grease trapping machine that could catch the grease before it became a problem.

    • http://zacharyshahan.com/ Zachary Shahan

      That’s what they’re planning to install at many or most of these restaurants. (note in the article, but a bit far down.) good thinkin. :D

  • http://twitter.com/energyforlondon EnergyforLondon

    This is a really fascinating project – involving a number of exciting innovations and – if it goes ahead! – will be a model scheme for many cities to consider! Much more on the background to this complex initiative here: http://www.energyforlondon.org/heatheatpowerpower/

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