Category: Municipal Wastewater

Two members of the U.S. House of Representatives — Scott Peters (D-CA) and Matt Salmon (R-AZ) — announced the relaunching of the Congressional Algae Caucus last week. This caucus aims to provide a forum to foster Congressional awareness of the enormous potential now being uncovered in tiny algae plant cells.

Representative Salmon commented: “In my own state we are already seeing the economic development that is possible from a thriving algae sector, from jobs to research and development. High tech jobs will help grow our economy and through this caucus, I hope to draw attention to the great economic and environmental benefits of algae production.”

Representative Peters stated, “My hope is that the Algae Caucus is a place for bipartisan discussion on how to diversify our energy policy, while also informing members of Congress about the jobs and partnerships the algae industry is creating, including at the University of California San Diego with the new California Center for Algae Biotechnology.”

Additional members of the bipartisan Congressional Algae Caucus include: Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), Tom Latham (R-IA), Trey Radel (R-FL), Louise Slaughter (D-NY), Tim Walz (D-MN) , Jackie Speier (D-CA), Susan Davis (D-CA), Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM), Alcee Hastings (D-FL), David Cicilline (D-RI), Ed Perlmutter (D-CO), Jared Polis (D-CO) and Duncan Hunter (R-CA). Hats off to them!

The algae biofuels market is expected to reach $1.6 billion by 2015. Algae also offers additional applications in the food, green chemicals and plastics industries. Algae grows faster and requires fewer resources than other biologically based feedstocks.

My favorite application for algae is its use to clean up wastewater and then used the converted and harvested biomass as an energy source. But there are some really great new developments in algae biofuels that deserve special mention.

For example, the Green Crude Farm in New Mexico is now operational, refining algae into crude oil for transportation. Sapphire Energy raised about $300 million in public and private backing for the project.  Its Series C round was reported to be one of the largest venture capital deals in 2012.

The commercial success of its algae-based crude has enabled Sapphire to pay off the entire $54.5 million in federal loan guarantees the comapny obtained in 2009 from the Biorefinery Assistance Program, administered by the USDA Rural Development-Cooperative Service. “The investments being made in low-carbon biofuel production are paying off and moving technologies forward, which will produce savings at the pump for consumers, and spur sustainable, new-wealth creation here in the United States, and make our land more productive,” says Doug O’Brien, Acting Under Secretary for Rural Development.

Commercial airlines are also now testing and running on fuels that include Solazyme’s algae-based fuel. Solazyme is reportedly the first publicly-traded algae company (Nasdaq: SZYM). The company has signed a $120 million loan agreement with joint venture partner Bunge for a loan from the Brazilian National Development Bank. That loan will be used It will  be used to develop the first commercial-scale renewable oil production facility in Brazil.

The high yield per acre (up to 5,000 gallons of renewable oil per year on a single acre) and minimal environmental impact of algae biofuels make them one of the most viable and attractive biofuels on the market today.

More information:

Algae power from muni waste!

Wanted to tell you all about a great company called Algae Systems.

Here’s a little summary from their website:

Algae Systems takes sewage from cities and feeds it to living algae, creating fuels, fertilizers and clean water, while removing CO2 from the atmosphere in the process. In just three years, our fuels will be cost competitive with oil. At scale, our fuels could replace fossil fuels within a generation.


This company;s containment systems for treated municipal wastewater are stationed out at sea, so they don’t take up valuable land. The algae consumes the biomass using CO2 from the air or from point sources.   Not only do these systems consume greenhouse gasses, they produce aviation and cargo fuels, as well as biochar (a charcoal product used for soil improvement), and leave clean water behind.

That’s a win-win-win! Check it out!

Municipal plant power

Fort Lauderdale City Commission has granted initial approval to Power Green Energy, a start-up company in Florida,  to install an anaerobic digestion system at the city’s waste-water treatment plant.

The plant will generate electricity to feed into Florida Power & Light’s powerlines by mid-2012. The project will generate enough electricity for 1000 homes.

The anaerobic digesters will also upgrade the biosolids remaining to eliminate pathogens, bacteria and viruses.

I hope they are going to use the biosolids for soil enrichment!

For more information:

Statistics from the American Biogas Council

  • Over 150 anaerobic digesters are operating on farms in the U.S. (, primarily at dairies and some hog farms. Farm digesters reduce odors associated with manure, as well as pathogens. In addition to generating electricity, heat from gas engines is captured and utilized in farm operations. Many farms also are accepting food waste streams from area generators, which provides a revenue stream and boosts biogas production.
  • More than 1,500 municipal wastewater treatment plants have anaerobic digesters to process the solids stream. Increasingly, these treatment plants are capturing the biogas to offset electricity and natural gas use, savings that go directly to the cities’ bottom line. A handful of facilities are being designed in the U.S. to process organics such as food waste and yard trimmings from the municipal solid waste stream. In September, construction of the first facility got underway in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.


The Natural and Bio-Gas Vehicle Association reports that the UK has become the eighth EU country to inject biomethane into the national grid. Other countries in Europe also adding biomethane to their national grids are Austria, France, Germany, Netherlands,  Norway, Sweden and Switzerland,

The Thames Water Didcot sewage works site is using anaerobic digesters as part of its sewage treatment process.  Technology from Chesterfield Biogas is then applied to remove moisture, CO2 and H2S to produce a clean, dry gas composed of around 97% biomethane.British Gas is buying the  resulting product.

Another new project at the Adnams brewery delivers biomethane from brewery and food waste to the national gas grid. Te project will generate energy to heat up to 235 homes for a year or power a family sized car for 4 million miles. The brewery’s future plans are to generate enough biogas to  power the brewery and its fleet of trucks, then inject the remaining 60% into the national grid.

The UK has also introduced a “Green Gas Certificate” program which will allow the biomethane energy that enters the grid to be tracked and allocated properly to any consumers. This exchange program will allow, for example, supermarkets to have their food waste made into biomethane and injected into national grid, then credited to extract an equivalent amount of natural gas from the grid at a distribution depot and fuel their fleets of dual-fuel CNG/Diesel trucks

For more information:

The Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant in Greenpoint, NY is developing a system to extract biogas, convert it to utility grade, and use it to fuel about 2,500 homes. With the assistance of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, this facility is solving two problems at once! Not only is it helping to resolve serious water contamination problems, it’s helping the community to meet its energy needs!  That’s a win-win solution in my book!

See, e.g.:

For more in-depth coverage, see:

Household sewage: Not waste, but a vast new energy resource

Public release date: 5-Jan-2011
Contact: Michael Bernstein
American Chemical Society

In a finding that gives new meaning to the adage, “waste not, want not,” scientists are reporting that household sewage has far more potential as an alternative energy source than previously thought. They say the discovery, which increases the estimated potential energy in wastewater by almost 20 percent, could spur efforts to extract methane, hydrogen and other fuels from this vast and, as yet, untapped resource. Their report appears in ACS’ journal Environmental Science & Technology.

Elizabeth S. Heidrich and colleagues note that sewage treatment plants in the United States use about 1.5 percent of the nation’s electrical energy to treat 12.5 trillion gallons of wastewater a year. Instead of just processing and dumping this water, they suggest that in the future treatment facilities could convert its organic molecules into fuels, transforming their work from an energy drain to an energy source. Based on their research, they estimate that one gallon of wastewater contains enough energy to power a 100-watt light bulb for five minutes.

Only one other study had been done on wastewater’s energy potential, and Heidrich thought that the results were too low because some energy-rich compounds were lost to evaporation. In the new study, the scientists freeze-dried wastewater to conserve more of its energy-rich compounds. Using a standard device to measure energy content, they found that the wastewater they collected from a water treatment plant in Northeast England contained nearly 20 per cent more than reported previously.


“Determination of the Internal Chemical Energy of Wastewater”


Elizabeth S. Heidrich
Newcastle University
Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom, NE1 7RU
Tel: 44 (0) 191 222 6323
FAX: 44 (0) 191 222 6502


Muni Wastewater to Fuel

Biomethane in municipal wastewater is being harvested to produce vehicle fuel for Flint, MI!

As Sean Kilcarr’s FleetOwner blog entry, “Betting on Biomethane,” reported on August 23, 2010:

“So I’m reading about a project that Kettering University recently wrapped up, whereby they converted a 2500HD Chevy Silverado pickup to a dual-fuel system, capable of running on either gasoline or natural gas. Yet the goal of the project is NOT to run this pickup of natural gas, but rather on the “biomethane” byproduct given off by the city of Flint, MI’s wastewater treatment plant.

“Here’s the cool part: if this works right, Flint is basically going to power all of its buses and city vehicles (cars and trucks alike) on the biomethane produced from the waste leftover water treatment process. In effect, the city would get fuel for all of its vehicles for free, once it pays off the cost of installing technology used to capture and “clean” the biomethane given off from wastewater treatment.”

Much more:

Biogas Truck at Work

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