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Grantee Research Project Results

NCER Grantee Research Project Results

Utilization of Byproducts from a Solid Waste Landfill for the Sustainable Production of Algae Biodiesel

EPA Grant Number: SU835078
Title: Utilization of Byproducts from a Solid Waste Landfill for the Sustainable Production of Algae Biodiesel
Investigators: Powers, Susan E. , Twiss, Michael R.
Institution: Clarkson University
EPA Project Officer: Lank, Gregory
Project Period: August 15, 2011 through August 14, 2012
Project Amount: $15,000
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2011)
Research Category: Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Challenge Area - Energy

Description:

Objective:

The basis of this project includes development of an algae bioreactor and biodiesel process facility at the Development Authority of the North Country (DANC) landfill in Rodman, NY. This facility will be designed to grow the alga Chlorella protothecoides for the purpose of producing biodiesel from extracted lipids. The project is unique in that it uses waste from existing processes at the landfill to support algal growth. Electric power generators at DANC use biogas collected from the landfill to produce a significant amount of waste heat that is currently being released to the atmosphere. This heat could be captured to aid several phases of algae cultivation. This research will also examine the feasibility of using landfill leachate as a growth medium. Leachate is produced as a result of garbage decomposition and the infiltration of rainwater through the waste materials, and is found to contain several nutrients that are necessary for algal growth when diluted with freshwater. The specific goal of this project is to determine the most feasible and effective method of using these resources, while optimizing algal lipid production to generate enough biodiesel to displace at least 20% of the landfill’s petroleum diesel use.

Approach:

An interdisciplinary team of students will complete the experimental, design and analysis aspect of this project throughout the 2012 academic year, primarily through two three-credit courses. The team will conduct initial experiments to determine the best algae growing conditions to maximize lipid output, design and implement a lab-scale photobioreactor and biodiesel production system as proof of the concept for this approach, and conduct economic and environmental feasibility studies to quantify the benefits of this process for displacing petroleum diesel fuel use at the DANC landfill.

Expected Results:

Algae-biodiesel has proven to be an effective and sustainable method of fuel production compared to corn- and soy-derived biofuels from a land use perspective, but is energy and water intensive process. It is proposed here to reduce the resource intensive requirements of algae biodiesel production through the utilization of waste byproducts from a landfill in northern New York. The use of waste heat and nutrient-rich leachate would allow the facility to produce its own fuel. Additional benefits include the creation of new jobs, a reduction of the facility’s dependence on fossil fuels, and a reduction in the cost and energy required to ship leachate off site for treatment.

Supplemental Keywords:

waste heat, leachate, photobioreactor

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The perspectives, information and conclusions conveyed in research project abstracts, progress reports, final reports, journal abstracts and journal publications convey the viewpoints of the principal investigator and may not represent the views and policies of ORD and EPA. Conclusions drawn by the principal investigators have not been reviewed by the Agency.

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