Using CO2 to Enhanced Algal Growth for Animal Feed and Biofuels

Public-Private Partnership Puts CO2 to Work

This project is demonstrating the feasibility of producing animal feed and/or biofuels at a significantly lower cost. The project combines technologies for bio-energy production that have been developed at ISTC in collaboration with Helios-NRG, headquartered in East Amherst, NY.

Generally, state-of-the-art technologies that aim to use CO2 beneficially have proven too expensive to be commercially viable. This study will explore the feasibility of combining municipal wastewater with waste gas to produce algae at accelerated rates. This combination provides the potential to generate multiple co-product revenue streams for wastewater treatment, algal biofuels, and algal animal feeds that can offset the cost of capturing flue gas from power plants.

“Fast algae growth rates as well as tolerance of elevated CO2 concentrations and contaminants in both flue gas and wastewater are key factors for healthy, continuous, profitable algae farming,” said Lance Schideman, ISTC senior research scientist and the project’s principal investigator. “Significant value is also created by using the nutrients from wastewater. Normally nutrients are a significant input cost for algae growers and a cost for treatment plants to remove them.”

“The proposed system integrates the needs of both stakeholders and creates a win-win scenario,” he added.

In any biofuel system, a positive net energy balance is a paramount requirement, and for algal biofuels, removing water from the algae can be energy-intensive, Schideman said. Thus, the research team will also be demonstrating a forward osmosis system to separate water from the algae using much less energy than conventional technologies.

This project is supported by a $1.25 M Department of Energy award.

Reducing the Cost of Producing Algal Biomass and Biofuels

A related project addresses some critical challenges to further develop practical biological CO2 capture and utilization systems using algae and the subsequent thermochemical conversion of algal biomass into biofuel products. The first objective is to confirm algae species’ survival, productivity, and carbon capture efficiency using flue gas from U of I’s Abbott Power Plant. The second objective is to demonstrate stable, efficient anaerobic digestion of wastewater from hydrothermal liquefaction (HTL), which will be gradually introduced in increasing amounts to existing anaerobic cultures from the local wastewater treatment plant. The focus is on reducing the cost of producing algal biomass and biofuels.

This project was supported by the Illinois Hazardous Waste Research Fund.

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