Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Biological and Irrigation Engineering


Ronald Sims


Algae that are grown in wastewater treatment lagoons could be an important substrate for biofuel production; however, the low C/N ratio of algae is not conducive to anaerobic digestion of algae with economically attractive methane production rates. Increasing the C/N ratio in anaerobic, laboratory scale, batch reactors by blending algal biomass with sodium acetate resulted i increased methane production rates as the C/N ratio increased. The highest amount of methane was produced when the C/N was 21/1. When the C/N was 24/1, the biogas production rate decreased. Batch experiments were done to evaluate the effect of optimizing the C/N ratio on methane production from algae and to identify the most essential information needed to conduct research on co-digestion of algal biomass using the continuous, high-rate, up-flow anaerobic sludge blanket (UASB) reactor system. Based on the results obtained from batch reactor experiments, anaerobic co-digestion of algal biomass, obtained by continuous centrifugation from the Logan City, Utah, 5th stage wastewater treatment lagoon, and sodium acetate was conducted using laboratory scale UASB reactors with the C/N ratio in the feedstock adjusted to 21/1. Duplicate, 34 L UASB reactor systems were built of poly(methyl methacrylate). Both reactors were seeded with 11 L of anaerobic sediment from the 3rd stage lagoon. The pH of the feedstock was adjusted to the neutral range. The feedstock was initially introduced at a low organic loading rate of 0.9 g/L.d with a hydraulic retention time (HRT) of 7.2 days and then increased up to 5.4 g/L.d and a HRT of 5.5 days. These organic loading rates corresponded to an initial influent chemical oxygen demand (COD) of 6.25 g/L and increased to 27.2 g/L. Methane production increased from 270 mL/g to 349 mL/g COD biodegraded. COD removal efficiency was 80% and biogas methane composition was 90% at steady state. Algal biomass contributed 33-50% of the COD in the feed stock depending on the COD of the algae paste from centrifugation. The shortest HRT at which steady state was not affected was 5.5 days. At lower HRT all monitored parameters showed a slight decrease after the 75th day of operation.