Anaerobic digestion of marine micro-algae is a necessary step for their incorporation into the future portfolio of biofuels. Digestion of marine feedstocks can pose operational issues associated with competition and toxicity to the microbial consortium. This research examined the marine species Isochrysis galbana and Dunaliella salina continuously cultivated in a tubular photobioreactor using a low sulphate medium; D. salina was also cultivated with a high sulphate medium (4.7 g SO4 L-1). Harvested micro-algal biomass was used as feedstock in semi-continuous digestion with a salt-adapted inoculum. Stable operation was achieved with reasonable specific methane production (SMP) despite a short (15-day) retention time. SMP for I. galbana and D. salina was 0.244 and 0.233 L CH4 g-1 volatile solids (VS), with VS destruction 32% and 48% respectively. SMP ranged from 62-94% of the biochemical methane potential, but was only 32-49% of theoretical methane yields, indicating pre-treatments may be beneficial. Changing from low to high sulphate D. salina reduced the SMP to 0.193 L CH4 g-1 VS with a rise in H2S production. Under semi-continuous digestion, evidence for sulphide precipitation and oxidation was observed, which were not seen in batch analyses. This highlights the importance of conducting continuous rather than batch studies, to avoid overlooking these effects.
- Marine micro-algae
- Semi-continuous anaerobic digestion
- Hydrogen sulphide