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Microalgae Growth Using High Strength Wastewater Followed by Anaerobic Co-digestion

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The integration of algal biofuel production into wastewater anaerobic digestion infrastructure has the potential to increase biogas production, decrease high and variable internal nitrogen loads, improve sludge digestibility and improve biosolids dewaterability. In this research, two species of microalgae, Spirulena platensis and a wild type Chlorella sp., were grown on sludge centrate and a mixture of centrate and nitrified wastewater effluent. Harvested algae were co-digested with waste activated sludge (WAS) at varying algae/WAS ratios. High growth (6.8 g m−2 d−1), nitrogen (36.5 g m−3 d−1) and phosphorous (6.5 g m−3 d−1) uptake rates were achieved when Chlorella was grown on centrate with a 12 hr d−1 photoperiod; however, no growth was observed with S. platensis under the same conditions. Both species grew well on the centrate/nitrified effluent mixture. Anaerobic co-digestion studies showed that the addition of either algal species to WAS improved volatile solids reduction, and potential biogas production. The addition of 5% or 15% S. platensis improved the dewaterability of anaerobically digested biosolids; however, Chlorella had a slightly negative impact on dewaterability compared to digested WAS alone. The results show that this strategy has strong potential for improving biogas production and overall process performance in conventional wastewater treatment facilities.

Keywords: Algae; Chlorella; Spirulina; anaerobic digestion; biofuel; sludge centrate; wastewater

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2010

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  • Proceedings of the Water Environment Federation is an archive of papers published in the proceedings of the annual Water Environment Federation® Technical Exhibition and Conference (WEFTEC® ) and specialty conferences held since the year 2000. These proceedings are not peer reviewed.

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