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PROJECTS: Algal-Bacterial Processes http://www.iqtma.uva.


Principal Investigators: Ral Muoz Torre PhD Student: Melanie Bahr Apart from methane (50-75%), biogas consists of carbon dioxide (2550%) and small amounts of hydrogen sulfide (0-3%). A decrease in CO2 content will result in lower transportation costs (more KJ per m3 transported) and will contribute to mitigate greenhouse emissions since CO2 is gaining more and more attention in this context due to its leading position as primary greenhouse gas. A reduction in H2S content is also crucial for a correct biogas management since H2S is highly corrosive, toxic and malodorous. When H2S comes in contact with air and water, sulfuric acid is formed, which can cause corrosion of pipes and turbines. Not only for its highly corrosive nature, but also for being poisonous and odorous, the elimination of H2S is vital for a safe and efficient utilization of biogas. Different processes based on physical-chemical and biological removal mechanisms have been applied for the elimination of CO2 and H2S, but only very little information exists about the simultaneous elimination of both compounds.

Fig. 1. Principle of algal-bacterial symbiosis

The use of algal-bacterial processes constitutes one of the few technologies capable to cope with both pollutants at minimal energy costs. In these systems, photosynthetic microorganisms use solar energy to fix the carbon dioxide necessary for biomass build-up and produce oxygen via photosynthesis. This oxygen is subsequently used by sulfur oxidizing bacteria to oxidize hydrogen sulfide to sulfate (Fig. 1). Another interesting aspect of this technology is the possibility to use the produced biomass for the production of bio-fuels (via microalgae lipid extraction or biogas production) or biofertilizers.
Fig. 2. Microscopic photograph of Spirulina Platensis

This work aims to design and optimize a pilot plant based on microalgal-bacterial consortia for the simultaneous elimination of H2S and CO2. The experimental set-up consists of a 200 L artificially illuminated high rate algae pond (HRAP) for biomass growth in combination with an absorption system for CO2 and H2S from biogas. The reactor is operated with the microalgae Spirulina Platensis and an alkaliphilic sulf-oxidizing bacterial consortium (Fig. 2, Fig. 3).
Fig. 3. HRAP pilot plant and absorption column

This project is supported by BIOGAS FUEL CELL S.A, Gijon, (Spain). Relevant publications

Bahr M, Daz M, Dominguez A, Daz I, Muoz R. Microalgal-Bacterial Systems for the Simultaneous Removal of H2S and CO2 from Biogas. 8th European Workshop "Biotechnology of microalgae", Nuthetal, June 7-10, 2010.

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