Anaerobic Pre-Treatment for an Algae-Based Wastewater Treatment System

EPA Contract Number: EPD11032
Title: Anaerobic Pre-Treatment for an Algae-Based Wastewater Treatment System
Investigators: Horst, Geoff
Small Business: Algal Scientific
EPA Contact: Manager, SBIR Program
Phase: I
Project Period: March 18, 2011 through September 19, 2011
Project Amount: $79,278
RFA: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) - Phase I (2011) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: SBIR - Water and Wastewater , Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)


Removing nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus is an increasingly important objective of wastewater treatment to reduce the impacts of nutrient pollution on waterways. Current technologies to remove these nutrients can be capital intensive, require dangerous chemical inputs and have high operational costs. Our company, Algal Scientific, has developed an innovative nutrient treatment system that sequesters nitrogen and phosphorus from the wastewater into the biomass of specially-selected algal species. This technology differs from the current nutrient treatment technologies that rely on bacterial-mediated conversion of soluble nitrogen into nitrogen gas and a separate chemical and/or biological precipitation of phosphorus. Algal Scientific's algae-based process not only reduces capital and operating costs but also provides net environmental benefits including reduced energy consumption and the production of a high-value algal biomass that can be converted into useful products such as bioenergy and biofertilizer.

The main objective of the proposed research is to determine whether an anaerobic pre-treatment step can condition certain waste streams to help optimize Algal Scientific's current algae-based treatment process. The proposed research utilizes both flask-scale and benchtop-scale experiments to determine which operating parameters of the anaerobic pre-treatment process result in the best nutrient removal performance by Algal Scientific's established downstream algae-based process. Algal Scientific expects these experiments to demonstrate an increase in the availability of nitrogen and phosphorus for algal sequestration, which would allow the company to decrease the water residence time of its entire wastewater treatment process. This improvement alone would substantially decrease operating and capital costs and allow Algal Scientific to remove nutrient more cost-effectively.

During Phase II, Algal Scientific will scale up the anaerobic pre-treatment process developed in Phase I to a flow rate capable of supplying “pre-treated” wastewater effluent to our company’s pilot and demonstration-scale operations. Algal Scientific already has one onsite pilot plant (100-liters bioreactors) operating with its current technology, and it expects to have a 50,000 liter per day demonstration-scale operation installed by the end of 2010, and its first commercial-scale operation (> 1 million liters per day) installed by the end of 2012. If the Phase II research demonstrates that our proposed pre-treatment process provides a net cost-savings, Algal Scientific then will integrate the process into its commercial scale design. Although wastewater nutrient regulations will drive the implementation of its system across the country, Algal Scientific expects to help customers achieve compliance and at the same time save money, reduce energy costs, and produce a valuable renewable biomass byproduct.

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final Report