Friday, August 9, 2013

Sewage-powered biofuels plant claims 'major breakthrough'

By Will Nichols 
Developers Aqualia says algae-based technology could enable Spain to 'power 200,000 vehicles through a single toilet flush'

An algae-to-power project claiming the potential to "power 200,000 vehicles every year with a single toilet flush" has hailed a major breakthrough after this week producing its first crop.

The €12m All-gas project at Chiclana in southern Spain is cultivating fast-growing micro-algae using waste water at a sewage plant, with a view to providing 200 vehicles with algae-based fuel by 2016, including public buses and garbage trucks in the Cadiz region.

Spanish water company Aqualia, which is leading the project, said the first crop of algae shows a particularly high energy potential.

Launched in May 2011, the five-year project has already completed its two year pilot phase in a 200 square metre facility and construction has begun on a one-hectare prototype plant, with the final phase involving a site the size of 10 football pitches.

Growing algae for fuel and power should counter arguments that using energy crops to produce biofuel can force up food prices by displacing agricultural land and result in the clearance of carbon rich rainforests and grasslands. Some studies have suggested the indirect emissions that result from producing some biofuels from crops are higher than those conventional fuels they are supposed to replace.

However, using waste water to grow algae not only limits the need for agricultural land, but also requires far less fertiliser as it uses the nitrogen and phosphorus already present in the wastewater. In addition, it purifies the water to a high standard, giving the plant a dual purpose.

The All-gas project also uses CO2 generated from residuals such as garden waste or olive pits to feed the algae, which are then converted into biogas, while the CO2 is separated and recycled.

"This original new approach to bioenergy means that Spain's 40 million population could power 200,000 vehicles every year with a single toilet flush," said Frank Rogalla, project coordinator and director of innovation and technology at Aqualia.

"The All-gas project is going to change the face of wastewater treatment by generating a valuable energy resource from what was previously considered undesirable waste."

Syndicated from Business Green

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