Two types of non-axenic algal cultures, one dominated by the freshwater microalgae Scenedesmus obliquus and the other by the marine microalgae Phaeodactylum tricornutum, were cultivated in two types of simple photobioreactor systems. The production rates, expressed on dry matter (DM) basis, were in the order of 0.12 and 0.18g DML-1d-1 for S. obliquus and P. tricornutum respectively. The biogas potential of algal biomass was assessed by performing standardized batch digestion as well as digestion in a hybrid flow-through reactor (combining a sludge blanket and a carrier bed), the latter under mesophilic and thermophilic conditions. Biomethane potential assays revealed the ultimate methane yield (B0) of P. tricornutum biomass to be about a factor of 1.5 higher than that of S. obliquus biomass, i.e. 0.36 and 0.24LCH4g-1 volatile solids (VS) added respectively. For S. obliquus biomass, the hybrid flow-through reactor tests operated at volumetric organic loading rate (Bv) of 2.8gVSL-1d-1 indicated low conversion efficiencies ranging between 26-31% at a hydraulic retention time (HRT) of 2.2days for mesophilic and thermophilic conditions respectively. When digesting P. tricornutum at a Bv of 1.9gVSL-1d-1 at either mesophilic or thermophilic conditions and at an HRT of 2.2days, an overall conversion efficiency of about 50% was obtained. This work indicated that the hydrolysis of the algae cells is limiting the anaerobic processing of intensively grown S. obliquus and P. tricornutum biomass.
- Anaerobic digestion
- Biomethane potential (BMP)