Project to Test Commercial Viability of Converting Waste Water to Biomethane

| Spain, Madrid

Water management company Aqualia Gestion Integral del Agua SA of Madrid (Aqualia) has announced plans to launch a commercial-scale demonstration scheme with European partners, using waste water to farm algae and harvest biomethane and biodiesel for use a transportation fuel.

An initiative part-funded by the seventh Framework Program (FP7) of the European Union, the demonstration scheme is expected to yield 1,500 m3 of biomethane and 500 litres of biodiesel a year from algae culture ponds at a waste water treatment plant in Chiclana, northern Spain, currently under construction.

The five-year project, ‘All-Gas’, will have an initial prototype phase of two years and, if successful, a second construction and operation phase of three years. Aqualia seeks to transform wastewater treatment plant effluent into biomass and convert this biomass into biogas. The EU funding in this project reflects the efforts aimed at reducing Europe’s energy dependence on fossil fuels. The goal is that by 2020 20% of the energy produced in Europe shall come from renewables. 10% of energy used in EU transport is expected to come from renewables.

The research consortium co-ordinated by Aqualia is formed also by six other institutions in Germany, UK, Netherlands, Austria and Turkey.

Residual nutrients in waste water are a resource for cultivating sustainable algae to produce bioenergy. Previously tested and proven in laboratories, this is the first time such a project has been implemented on a commercial scale. The system is expected to produce sufficient energy to become self-sufficient; If the company can produce 3,000 kg of dry algae a day with an oil content of 20 per cent, the project will be amplified to commercial-scale size of 10 ha to produce 600,000 m3 of biomethane and 200,000 litres of biodiesel a year – enough to fuel 400 vehicles.

Aqualia is confident the increased scale of the algae oil harvesting will produce a competitively priced fuel, especially given the upward trend of current oil prices.

(This article primarily compiled using information from an Aqualia press release)

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