Towards energy neutral microalgae-based wastewater treatment plants
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The aim of this study was to assess the energy balance of a hypothetical microalgae-based wastewater treatment plant (10,000 PE) located in the Mediterranean Region, where harvested microalgal biomass and primary sludge would be co-digested to produce biogas and bioenergy. The assessment was based on experimental results obtained over one year in pilot high rate algal ponds followed by anaerobic digesters for biogas production from harvested microalgal biomass and primary sludge. The energy balance compared four scenarios: 1) anaerobic co-digestion of microalgal biomass and primary sludge, and cogeneration from biogas in a combined with heat and power (CHP) unit; 2) co-digestion with thermal pretreatment of microalgal biomass, and cogeneration from biogas in a CHP unit; 3) co-digestion and heat generation from biogas in a boiler; and 4) co-digestion with thermal pretreatment of microalgal biomass, and heat generation from biogas in a boiler. According to the results, when biogas was used to cogenerate electricity and heat (scenarios 1 and 2), the electricity balance was always positive, and the best results were obtained with pretreated microalgal biomass (scenario 2). Similarly, the heat balance was always positive when biomass was thermally pretreated (scenario 2). On the other hand, when biogas was only used to produce heat (scenarios 3 and 4), heat requirements were covered during the whole year. The sensibility analysis of the scenarios with pretreatment (2 and 4) confirmed that the microalgae-based WWTP would be energy neutral or even net energy producer.
CitationPassos, F., Gutierrez, R., Uggetti, E., Marianna Garfi', Garcia, J., Ferrer, I. Towards energy neutral microalgae-based wastewater treatment plants. "Algal research: biomass, biofuels and bioproducts", Desembre 2017, vol. 28, p. 235-243.