Using Algae for Wastewater Treatment and Biofuel Production
We read a very interesting article recently in the April 2012 edition of Civil Engineering. The article by Jay Landers discusses a pilot study being done in San Lius Obispo's Water Reclamation facility. The study is designed to test using solar energy and photosynthetic algae to treat wastewater, and then possibly using the algae to generate biofuel. The goal is to develop an inexpensive method of treatment that will reduce nutrient levels and have a valuable byproduct (fertilizer, biofuels). This treatment process could result in a more sustainable and cost effective approach when compared with conventional manners.
As part of the project, the facility uses raceway style algae ponds. The raceway style ponds produce algae at a much higher rate than conventional ponds, and can accelerate photosythetic oxygen production and nutrient assimilation by the algal cells. Algae uses significantly les energy and lower volumes of chemicals than conventional approaches do, as it relies mainly on solar power. It is a more sustainable process, using much less energy than an activated sludge process.
One problem facing the systems is that solar energy requires a large amount of flat land, which may not always be available near a wastewater treatment plant facility.
If the pilot study is successful, the algae will be generated efficiently, and the removed without coagulants, hopefully by settling out to allow for harvesting. The harvested algae can be dewatered for use as fertilizer or biofuel production.
This pilot study is set to run through April 2013. We'll be very interested to see how the study works out. If you have questions about wastewater treatment processes or innovative approaches to wastewater treatment, please contact Kevin P. Klein, P.E. at (508) 747-7900 extension 130.
Information for this blog post taken from article entitled "Pilot Plant Used to Evaluation Algae for Wastewater Treatment and Biofuel Production" p40-41, Civil Engineering, April 2012, by Jay Landers.