Microalgae Cultivation and Harvesting for the epubs. Cultivation and... viable microalgae production

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  • Microalgae Cultivation and Harvesting for the Production of Biofuels

    Chemical and Process Engineering

    Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences University of Surrey, Guildford

    A thesis submitted for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy

    Mohammed-Hassan Khairallah Al Emara

    APRIL 2017

    Supervised by:

    Dr. Franjo Cecelja, Dr. Eirini Velliou, Prof. Adel Sharif & Dr. Aidong Yang

  • i

    Declaration of Originality

    I, Mohammed-Hassan Khairallah Al Emara, hereby declare that this submitted research project

    titled “Microalgae Cultivation and Harvesting for the Production of Biofuels.” is my own work

    and that all efforts and material attributed to others (whether published or unpublished) has

    been fully acknowledged using the specified referencing system in accordance with the

    academic integrity guidelines as laid out by the University of Surrey, Guildford.

    Mohammed-Hassan Khairallah Al Emara 13/4/2016

  • ii


    Increasing concern over climate change and the impact of greenhouse gas emissions as well as

    diminishing global oil reserves has pushed research into alternative energy. Reducing the cost of

    microalgae, a promising source for alternative energy, is a key step in commercialising biodiesel

    production. Currently avenues such as the use of waste stream cost effective cultivation system and

    efficient harvesting options are being explored for the common goal of establishing commercially

    viable microalgae production and utilisation schemes. From reviewing the current progress

    presented in literature this research has identified several aspects of importance to commercialising

    biofuel production.

    After identifying several gaps in the literature covering direct comparison of microalgal biomass

    production between temperate and hot region, a novel investigation utilising a refined computer

    model was undertaken to compare upstream cultivation of open systems in both temperate and hot

    climates. The outcome of which suggested the relative importance of light over temperature for the

    cultivation of microalgae in an open pond system. This was then explored further experimentally by

    setting the temperate light intensity, photoperiod and temperature conditions for three months

    representing summer and winter seasons. The results of this novel adaptation of seasonal highs and

    lows data of a temperate climate (UK) indicated that a more effective direction of intervention is the

    investment in additional light-supply in place of a heating-system, which is more than likely to yield

    higher algal biomass for biofuel production. Finally, an approach was made towards engaging more

    economical aspects of the process from upstream cultivation of waste stream based nutrients

    (leachate) with a native microalgae strain for the first time, to downstream dewatering of algal

    biomass with innovative improvements to energy efficient forward osmosis technology by uniquely

    assessing microalgae nutrient-based draw solution. The results both indicated the real potential of

    utilising these cost efficient methods at a lab scale.

    The ultimate goal of the project was to combine the research efforts for both cultivation (upstream)

    and harvesting (downstream) to assist in the understanding of the commercial viability of biofuel

    production from microalgae.

    Keywords: Microalgae, Biomass, Cultivation, Temperate, Leachate, Forward Osmosis

  • iii

    Acknowledgment I would like to sincerely thank my project supervisors currently Dr Franjo Cecelja and Dr Eirini

    Velliou as well as previously Prof Adel Sharif and Dr Aidong Yang for their, invaluable support,

    encouragement, advice and guidance given to me during my PhD programme for which I am truly

    grateful for.

    I would also like to express my gratitude to Mr David Hawkins for his laboratory technical support

    and good-spirited discussions related to this research. Not forgetting Mrs Hilary Mitchell for

    providing me with all necessary administrative support as well as many warm conversations

    throughout this programme.

    A special thanks to both Prof. Alberto Bertucco and Dr Eleonora Sforza for their much valued

    support, guidance and assistance during my time at the University of Padova in Italy.

    I also wish to thank all my friends and colleagues for their companionship and constant support,

    in particular Mr Salim Damani, Mr Mohammed Khashoggi, Dr Mithun Biswas, Dr Mohsen Shaeri,

    Dr Abdullah Al Kandari, Mr Zaid Laftah as well as PandaOnXtc run by Mr Faisal Alireza. A very

    special thanks to Dr Serena Schiano whose company, guidance and kind words help progress this

    program towards completion.

    Last, but not least, I would of course like to reiterate my life time thanks to my family, my father

    Dr Khairallah, mother Janan, sister Heba and brothers Hussein, Hassanien and Hayder for their

    continual love, strength and unconditional support throughout my entire life and educational

    journey thus far.

  • iv

    Dedicated to

    My Mother Janan Al Khasibi


    My Father Khairallah A. S. M. Al Emara

  • v

    Table of Content: Abstract ii

    1. Introduction 1

    1.1 Background 2

    1.2 Aim and Structure of Report 3

    2. Literature Review 5

    2.1.1 Algae Background 6

    2.1.2 Algae Potential 8

    2.2 Algae Cultivation 9

    2.2.1 Closed-System Photobioreactor 10

    2.2.2 Open Pond Cultivation Systems 15

    2.2.3 Comparison of Open and Closed Cultivation Systems 18

    2.2.4 Wastewater-Based Algae Cultivation 19

    2.2.5 Temperate Climate Algae Cultivation 22

    2.3 Algae Harvesting and Concentrating 23

    2.3.1 Flocculation 23

    2.3.2 Centrifugation 25

    2.3.3 Filtration 25

    2.3.4 Forward Osmosis 26

    2.4 Biodiesel Production 32

    2.5 Modelling 34

    2.6 Summary 36

    3. Model-based Comparison of Algae Cultivation Potential in Different

    Climates 37

    3.1 Introduction 38

    3.2 Mathematical Model 39

    3.3 Regional Climates and Selected Locations 41

    3.4 Simulation Results and Discussion 43

    3.5 Conclusion 46

    3.6 Summary 46

    4. Experimental Assessment of Algal Biomass Productivity Under

    Temperate Climate Cultivation 47

    4.1 Introduction 48

  • vi

    4.2 Methodology for Temperate Climate Cultivation 49

    4.2.1 Materials and Setup 50

    4.2.2 Procedure 52 Summer Average 54 Winter Average 55

    4.3 Results of Temperate Climate Cultivation 56

    4.3.1 Summer Batches 56 First Summer Batch (B2-UK-S) 57 Second Summer Batch (B3-UK-S) 60 Third Summer Batch (B5-UK-S) 53

    4.3.2 Winter Batches 66 First Winter Batch (B4-UK-W) 67 Second Winter Batch (B6-UK-W) 70 Third Winter Batch (B7-UK-W) 73

    4.3.3 Summer & Winter Batches Assessment 76

    4.4 Temperate Climate Cultivation Discussion 79

    4.5 Conclusion 84

    4.6 Summary 84

    5. Experimental Evaluation of Algal Biomass Potential Whilst

    Simultaneously Treating Urban Landfill Leachate 85

    5.1 Introduction 86

    5.2 Methodology for Leachate Based Medium Cultivation 87

    5.2.1 Materials and Setup 87

    5.2.2 Procedure 89 Control Batches 94 Leachate Batches 94

    5.3 Results of Leachate Based Medium Cultivation 95

    5.3.1 Leachate Dilution 1:1 (50%) 96 Experimental Runs (B3-L-A-1/B5-L-A-2/B6-L-A-3) 96

    5.3.2 Leachate Dilution 1:2 (34%) 101 Experimental Runs (B4-L-B-1/ B5-L-B-2/ B6-L-B-3) 101

    5.3.3 Leachate Dilution 1:3 (25%) 106 Experimental Runs (B3-L-C-1/ B5-L-C-2/ B6-L-C-3) 106

    5.3.4 Leachate Dilution 1:9 (10%) 111 Experimental Runs (B3-L-D-1/ B4-L-D-2/ B5-L-D-3) 111

    5.3.5 Nutrient Analyses 116

    5.4 Leachate Based Medium Cultivation Discussion 117

  • vii

    5.5 Conclusion 122

    5.6 Summary 122

    6. Experimental Investigation into the Efficiency of Forward Osmosis

    Dewatering of Algal Biomass through Novel Draw Solution Blend


    6.1 Introduction 124

    6.2 Methodology for Assessment of Forward Osmosis Dewatering 125

    6.2.1 Materials and Setup 125

    6.2.2 Procedure 129 Microalgae Cultivation for FO Dewatering Feed Solution


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