This paper examines the potential of algae biofuel production in conjunction with wastewater treatment. Current technology for algal wastewater treatment uses facultative ponds, however, these ponds have low productivity (∼10 tonnes/ha.y), are not amenable to cultivating single algal species, require chemical flocculation or other expensive processes for algal harvest, and do not provide consistent nutrient removal. Shallow, paddlewheel-mixed high rate algal ponds (HRAPs) have much higher productivities (∼30 tonnes/ha.y) and promote bioflocculation settling which may provide low-cost algal harvest. Moreover, HRAP algae are carbon-limited and daytime addition of CO2 has, under suitable climatic conditions, the potential to double production (to ∼60 tonnes/ha.y), improve bioflocculation algal harvest, and enhance wastewater nutrient removal. Algae biofuels (e.g. biogas, ethanol, biodiesel and crude bio-oil), could be produced from the algae harvested from wastewater HRAPs, The wastewater treatment function would cover the capital and operation costs of algal production, with biofuel and recovered nutrient fertilizer being by-products. Greenhouse gas abatement results from both the production of the biofuels and the savings in energy consumption compared to electromechanical treatment processes. However, to achieve these benefits, further research is required, particularly the large-scale demonstration of wastewater treatment HRAP algal production and harvest.
Keywords: algae, biofuel, high rate algal ponds, wastewater treatment