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Assessing hydrothermal liquefaction for the production of bio-oil and enhanced metal recovery from microalgae cultivated on acid mine drainage

Raikova, Sofia, Smith-Baedorf, Holly, Bransgrove, Rachel, Barlow, Oliver, Santomauro, Fabio, Wagner, Jonathan L., Allen, Michael J., Bryan, Christopher G., Sapsford, Devin, Chuck, Christopher J.
Fuel processing technology 2016 v.142 pp. 219-227
Chlamydomonas, Spirulina platensis, acid mine drainage, biofuels, biomass, heat, liquefaction, metals, microalgae, petroleum, phosphates, remediation, sulfates
The hydrothermal liquefaction (HTL) of algal biomass is a promising route to viable second generation biofuels. In this investigation HTL was assessed for the valorisation of algae used in the remediation of acid mine drainage (AMD). Initially the HTL process was evaluated using Arthrospira platensis (Spirulina) with additional metal sulphates to simulate metal remediation. Optimised conditions were then used to process a natural algal community (predominantly Chlamydomonas sp.) cultivated under two scenarios: high uptake and low uptake of metals from AMD. High metal concentrations appear to catalyse the conversion to bio-oil, and do not significantly affect the heteroatom content or higher heating value of the bio-oil produced. The associated metals were found to partition almost exclusively into the solid residue, favourable for potential metal recovery. High metal loadings also caused partitioning of phosphates from the aqueous phase to the solid phase, potentially compromising attempts to recycle process water as a growth supplement. HTL was therefore found to be a suitable method of processing algae used in AMD remediation, producing a crude oil suitable for upgrading into hydrocarbon fuels, an aqueous and gas stream suitable for supplementing the algal growth and the partitioning of most contaminant metals to the solid residue where they would be readily amenable for recovery and/or disposal.