HUNDREDS of Didcot residents are heating their homes with gas generated from sewage.

Biomethane gas from the Thames Water depot in Basil Hill Road, Didcot, is producing enough gas for the National Grid to supply up to 200 homes.

The £2.5m project, the first of its kind in the country, is a joint venture between Thames Water, Scotia Gas Networks and British Gas.

John Gilbert, Thames Water’s spokesman for the project, said: “Renewable gas is now flowing into the gas network.

“We are capturing methane, a by-product of the sewage treatment process, cleaning it to National Grid quality and providing the gas for residents to heat their homes.

“We can’t say precisely which homes will be drawing the gas, but we know it is going into the southern part of the grid network which serves the Didcot area.

“This is a pilot scheme jointly funded by all three organisations and we believe there is the potential for 200,000 homes across the UK to be supplied using this approach.”

John Morea, chief executive of Scotia Gas Networks, said: “Just as Thames Water has to clean sewage waste, we have to clean the gas to ensure it’s fit to pump into our network.

“The gas that we are transporting from Didcot doesn’t arrive from the North Sea or abroad, but instead comes from the very homes that we are delivering the gas to — that has to be recycling at its very best.”

The whole process, from flushing a toilet to gas being piped into people’s homes, takes about 20 days.

If all 9,600 sewage treatment plants in the UK were fitted with the same techology, they could provide enough renewable gas for up to 200,000 homes. There are almost six million customers in the National Grid’s southern network, which includes the Didcot area.

Energy and Climate Change Secretary Chris Huhne said: “It’s not every day that a Secretary of State can announce that, for the first time ever in the UK, people can cook and heat their homes with gas generated from sewage.

“I know there are other similar projects across the country that are close to completion, so this is just the start of a new era of renewable energy.”

If the venture is followed across the country, sewage, manufacturing waste and farm slurry could generate 15 per cent of the UK’s gas supplies by 2020.

Gearoid Lane, managing director of communities and new energy for British Gas, said: “This renewable gas project is a real milestone in Britain’s energy history and will help customers and the environment alike.”

The sewage works gets its waste from Didcot, Harwell, Milton, East and West Hagbourne and Milton Park.