Production of Biodiesel from Algae applied to Agricultural Wastewater Treatment

EPA Grant Number: SU833154
Title: Production of Biodiesel from Algae applied to Agricultural Wastewater Treatment
Investigators: Nelson, Yarrow M. , Kean, Andrew , Mark, Walter , Vanasupa, Linda , Vigil, Sam
Current Investigators: Nelson, Yarrow M. , Feffer, Adam , Kean, Andrew , Lundquist, Tryg , Mark, Walter , Vanasupa, Linda , Vigil, Sam , Woertz, Ian
Institution: California Polytechnic State Univ - San Luis Obispo
EPA Project Officer: Nolt-Helms, Cynthia
Phase: I
Project Period: September 30, 2006 through August 30, 2007
Project Amount: $10,000
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2006) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: P3 Challenge Area - Energy , Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Awards , Sustainability


With increasing dependence on foreign oil, escalating energy prices, and persistent air and water pollution associated with energy production, the U.S. is in need of a clean-burning renewable energy sources. Biodiesel is a rapidly expanding alternative fuel that has the potential to fuel a significant portion of American industry, but there is growing criticism that the use of food crops for biodiesel feedstock is an uneconomical long term solution. Algae is an alternative feedstock that may be more economical. Previous research in the early 1980’s by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) showed that algae is capable of producing 30 times the amount of oil per unit area of land, compared to terrestrial oilseed crops. However, their results also showed that large scale algae cultivation was uneconomical at that time and suggested future research into waste-stream integration (NREL 1996). The proposed research will apply algae growth to applications in wastewater treatment for nutrient management of agricultural waste streams, to increase the economic feasibility of using algae as a feedstock for biodiesel. The proposed project will include these steps: the cultivation of high-lipid algae, harvesting, oil extraction, and biodiesel conversion. The project will include a feasibility study of using algae production in conjunction with nutrient management at the Cal Poly Dairy wastewater lagoon.

The research will be done by graduate students under the direction of environmental and mechanical engineering professors. The project will be integrated into several classes. It also has the backing of the student-based Cal Poly Biodiesel Club, which will exhibit any findings from the research at conferences, community events, and workshops. The Biodiesel Club will also pursue future research into application of a pilot scale demonstration at the Cal Poly campus.

This technology could benefit not only the U.S. and other industrialized countries but also developing countries that lack sanitation and energy infrastructure. In both settings it would give people the power to grow a clean burning renewable fuel while simultaneously cleaning agriculture runoff.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 1 publications for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

Waste, treatment, green chemistry, sustainable development, carbon dioxide, nitrates, phosphates, biomass, lipids, environmental engineering, pollution prevention, clean technologies, innovative technologies, waste reduction, alternative energy, closed loop,, RFA, Scientific Discipline, INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION, TREATMENT/CONTROL, Sustainable Industry/Business, POLLUTION PREVENTION, cleaner production/pollution prevention, Environmental Chemistry, Sustainable Environment, Energy, Technology, Technology for Sustainable Environment, Chemicals Management, Environmental Engineering, energy conservation, alternative to petroleum diesel fuel, renewable fuel production, agricultural byproducts, emission controls, industrial ecology, sustainable transportation, alternative fuel vehicles, transportation technology, biotechnology, energy efficiency, ethanol, alternative fuel, biodiesel fuel, alternative energy source, environmentally benign alternative, biofuel, agricultural wastewater treatment, green chemistry, renewable energy

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final Report