Abstract

Sustainable mass production of algal biofuels requires a reduction in nutrient demand and efficient conversion into fuels of all biomass including lipid-extracted algal residues (LEA). This study evaluated methane production, nutrient recovery and recycling from untreated and enzymatically pretreated Nannochloropsis LEA using semi-continuous anaerobic digestion (AD). Additionally, this process was compared to methane generation from whole Nannochloropsis alga (WA) and thermally pretreated WA. The methane production from untreated LEA and WA reached up to 0.22 L and 0.24 L per gram of biomass volatile solids (VS), respectively, corresponding to only 3638% of the theoretical potential. Additionally, observed VS reduction was only 4050% confirming biomass recalcitrance to biodegradation. While enzymatic treatment hydrolyzed up to 65% of the LEA polysaccharides, the methane production increased by only 15%. Alternatively, WA thermal pretreatment at 150170 C enhanced methane production up to 40%. Overall, an integrated process of lipid conversion into biodiesel coupled with LEA conversion into methane generates nearly 40% more energy compared to methane production from WA, and about 100% more energy than from biodiesel alone. Additionally, the AD effluent contained up to 6070% of the LEA phosphorus content, 3050% of the nitrogen, sulfur, calcium and boron, 20% of the iron and cobalt, and 10% of manganese, zinc and copper, which can partially replace chemical fertilizers during algal cultivation. Consequently, supplementation of Nannochloropsis cultures with 5% AD effluent was optimal for a high algal growth rate. Therefore, coupling biodiesel and methane production provides significant energy advantages along with sustainability and economic benefits from nutrient recycling.


Applied Energy 154 (2015) 718731