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Nicholas Hotzelt

Clemson University, MS
EREF Scholar 2015

Landfill Leachate Valorization for Commodity Methane Generation

Project Description (while EREF Scholar):
Landfill leachate is a regulated waste at every landfill operating in the United States.  It is monitored and controlled to prevent environmental impacts, and to date there have been few reasonable markets for this ubiquitous waste.  This project seeks to develop a new market for landfill leachate by a two-step conversion process that uses microbial biomass as an intermediate between leachate and methane production.

The broad objective of Nick’s project is to demonstrate that landfill leachate can be converted to methane using a two-step microbial process that involves microbial biomass as an intermediate, where the microbial biomass generated from leachate consumption becomes the feedstock for methane production in a controlled anaerobic digester.

This research advances the prospects of converting landfills to a source of renewable energy. At most current landfills, the methane gas that is formed during the break down of organic waste leaks into the atmosphere and contributes to global warming. The process that Nick is working on will turn a significant environmental problem into a renewable energy solution.


Nicholas Hotzelt received his Bachelor of Science in Environmental Engineering from Clemson University in December 2014 and his Master’s degree in Environmental Engineering with an emphasis area in surface and subsurface transport from Clemson in 2016. He is now a staff engineer at Hart and Hickman in Charlotte, NC where he is working on solid and hazardous waste and remediation projects.

Nick was involved with numerous organizations during his time at Clemson including Engineers without Borders, Clemson Engineers for Developing Countries, and served on the board of the American Water Works Association (AWWA) student chapter. In his free time, he enjoys attending sporting events, traveling, and spending time with friends and family.