Technological and Economic Sustainability of Coupling Wastewater Algal Treatment and Biogas Production

EPA Grant Number: SU835711
Title: Technological and Economic Sustainability of Coupling Wastewater Algal Treatment and Biogas Production
Investigators: Keller, Troy A , Jauregui, Andres
Institution: Columbus State University
EPA Project Officer: Hahn, Intaek
Phase: I
Project Period: August 15, 2014 through August 14, 2015
Project Amount: $14,559
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2014) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Challenge Area - Energy , P3 Challenge Area - Water , P3 Awards , Sustainability

Objective:

Wastewater is a leading source of controllable nutrient pollution discharged into rivers and lakes. This nutrient pollution causes our waters to turn green with excessive blooms of algae and cyanobacteria. Technological solutions to solve this problem do exist, however they require lots of energy and are costly to build and maintain. One promising treatment approach harnesses the natural ability of attached algae to remove nutrients before it is discharged to our waterways. Using algae to clean wastewater is even more sustainable because algae capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and the waste biomass can be converted into renewable biofuel. Assessing whether this technology is economically viable remains a challenge that has limited its widespread use.

Our objective is to create an economic model to estimate the dollar value of different configurations of algal treatment systems. We seek to evaluate how to best set up these systems to reduce their economic costs while improving their benefits to society.

Approach:

This project will measure the growth of algae in a pilot-scale wastewater treatment system to produce biomass (for biogas production) and remove nutrient pollution. Measurements of algal biomass will be made with and without the addition of carbon dioxide. These biomass measurements are needed to ensure that our cost and benefit estimates are realistic. To expand the value of our financial analysis we will estimate cost-benefits of 4 different wastewater treatment setups: with and without algal treatment and with and without adding carbon dioxide.

Expected Results:

This project will produce realistic financial estimates to evaluate the cost-benefits of using algae to treat wastewater and create biofuel. A thorough sensitivity analysis of the costs and benefits of algal treatment will enable us to identify economic challenges that stand in the way of wide-spread use of this promising technology. Algae treatment systems could revolutionize the purification of industrial, domestic, or agricultural wastewater and serve as a source of renewable biomass that can reduce our demand for energy from carbon dioxide-emitting fossil fuels. anaerobic digestion, algal biofuels,

Supplemental Keywords:

anaerobic digestion, algal biofuels

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final