Gulu University staff win 900 Million Ugandan shillings from the Government of Uganda, in partnership with Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MoSTI)

Dr. Jimmy Byakatonda the Principle Investigator (PI), together with, Dr. Alfred Obia- Soil scientist Co-PI-1 and Dr. Emmanuel Menya- Energy resources Co-PI-2, won a project titled: Pyrolysis of Sewage Sludge for Bioenergy, Soil Amendment, and Wastewater Treatment (PYROL Project) which will be implemented over 3 years.

The main purpose of this project is to recover energy and develop value-added products from the huge surplus of sewage sludge available countrywide. Syngas, biochar-based organic fertilizer, and biosorbents will be obtained from the sewage sludge and used in energy application, soil amendment, and wastewater treatment. These sewage sludge-derived products will therefore help address the water-energy-food nexus as opposed to landfilling of the sludge, which would otherwise pose numerous health and environmental challenges. This approach will therefore close the cycle by diverting the sewage sludge from reaching the landfill.

In Uganda, huge amounts of sewage sludge is generated from wastewater treatment plants, posing numerous disposal challenges to urban authorities. With only a small fraction of the sewage sludge finding useful application, a huge surplus of the sludge without immediate application is merely landfilled. The small fraction which is utilized is often applied in agriculture for soil amendment after composting. Besides, this is often laden with heavy metals, which is dangerous to humans once it enters the food chain via crops, let alone microbes that can directly infect human

The research project attempts to address the disposal challenge of sewage sludge by finding low-cost, environmentally friendly technologies capable of managing the sewage sludge in a sustainable manner. Pyrolysis is one of such promising technologies as it offers massive volume reduction of the sewage sludge, reducing the need for additional land to accommodate the increasing amounts of sewage sludge. The pathogens in the sludge are also effectively removed upon pyrolysis, eliminating the potential negative impacts on human health and the environment. Moreover, beneficial products such as bioenergy and value-added products can be obtained from the pyrolysis of sewage sludge. This research project will set up a pilot-scale pyrolysis of sewage sludge to produce multiple bio-based products such as syngas, organic fertilizer, and biosorbents for wastewater treatment. These resultant value-added products will also be optimized, and subsequently tested under real-field conditions.

This project offers solutions to some of the national and global challenges. For instance, by sustainably managing sludge, urban centers are made more livable, since the numerous health and environmental concerns are mitigated. This project therefore helps achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal-4 (SDG 4), SDG-11, SDG-13, as well as the goal of our National Development Plan-III (NDP-III). Production of syngas from sludge contributes to the national renewable energy resource, which not only helps achieve SDG-7, but also helps achieve SDG-3 as households enjoy a clean cooking environment. The application of biochar for soil amendment helps achieve SDG 2, by increasing soil productivity and subsequently food production. Besides remediating polluted soils, biochar stores carbon in a stable form, offsetting the greenhouse gas emissions that would otherwise arise from poor disposal of sludge, helping achieve SDG-13. This way we build zero emission and more climate smart cities in Uganda and beyond. Application of biosorbent for water treatment helps achieve SDG-6. This project also contributes towards achieving SDG-12, since generating bio-based products from sludge offsets the need to extract new raw materials. At a national level, the innovation contributes to the National Renewable Energy Policy, climate change policy, amongst others. Overall, the novelty of the idea lies in removing waste that would potentially be a source of greenhouse gas emissions and hence further driving climate change.

Gulu University congratulates the team on this noble achievement which makes the University proud as the goal to transform the community is continually pursued.

For more details you may contact the principal investigator on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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