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OSLO - In an extreme energy project tapping heat from raw sewage, Oslo's citizens are helping to warm their homes and offices simply by flushing the toilet.
Large blue machines at the end of a 300-metre long tunnel in a hillside in central Oslo use fridge technology to suck heat from the sewer and transfer it to a network of hot water pipes feeding thousands of radiators and taps around the city.
"We believe this is the biggest heating system in the world using raw sewage," Lars-Anders Loervik, managing director of Oslo energy company Viken Fjernvarme which runs the plant, told Reuters. The plant opened this week.
The heat pump, a system of compressors and condensers, cost 90 million Norwegian crowns (US$13.95 million) and has an effect of 18 megawatts (MW), enough to heat 9,000 flats or save burning 6,000 tonnes of oil a year.
And experts say sewers could be exploited elsewhere.
"The technology is there, so if the infrastructure is also there, this is a feasible solution in many cities worldwide," said Monica Axell, head of the International Energy Agency's heat pump centre. The agency advises 26 industrialised nations.
She said a bigger heat pump in Sweden, with a 160 MW capacity, exploited heat from treated sewage. And in Finland, a 90 MW plant ran on waste water.