UP TO 200 householders will be able to heat their homes with renewable gas generated from waste at a sewage plant.

Biomethane gas from the Thames Water depot in Basil Hill Road, Didcot, is now pumping enough gas through 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.

If it is a success, it could be repeated across the country.

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

“We’re 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 network which serves the Didcot area.

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

John Morea, chief executive of Scotia Gas Networks, added: “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 comes from the very homes we are delivering the gas to. That has to be recycling at it’s 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 National Grid’s southern network, which includes Didcot.

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 in the UK, people can cook and heat their homes with gas generated from sewage.

“There are other similar projects across the country close to completion, so this is just the start of a new era.”

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

Gearoid Lane, British Gas managing director of communities and new energy, said: “This is a milestone in Britain’s energy history.”

The sewage works receives waste from Didcot, Harwell, Milton, the Hagbournes and Milton Park estate.

One of 349 Thames Water sewage works, it treats 340 litres of sewage a second.