Proof-of-concept has been demonstrated for a process that will utilize nutrients from sludge liquor, natural light, and CO2 from biogas to grow microalgae at wastewater treatment plants. This process will reduce the impact of returning side-streams to the head of the plant. The produced algae will be fed to anaerobic digesters for increased biogas production. Dewatering of anaerobically digested sludge in centrifuges produces reject water with extremely low transmittance of light. A pre-treatment procedure was developed that improved light transmittance for reject water from the FREVAR, Norway, wastewater treatment plant from 0.1% T to 77% T (670 nm, 1 cm path). Chlorella sp. microalgae were found to be suitable for growth in this pre-treated reject water. Typical nitrogen removal was 80–90 g N/kg TSS of produced microalgae. The microalgae were successfully harvested by chemically assisted flocculation followed by straining through a 33 μm sieve cloth, achieving up to 99% recovery. Harvested algae were anaerobically co-digested with wastewater sludge. The specific methane gas production (mL CH4/g VS fed) for the algae varied from less than 65% to 90% of the specific methane gas production for the wastewater sludge, depending on digester temperature, retention time and pre-treatment of the algae biomass.
Keywords: Anaerobic co-digestion, Chlorella sp., methane, microalgae, sludge liquor nutrients