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Non-Fuel Applications of Waste Water Algae

Algae are possibly one of the most useful, yet one of the most ignored organisms. In addition to the fact that algae are responsible for consuming most of the CO2 and releasing the most amount of oxygen that keeps us alive, algae are also being used in diverse industries and applications. In fact, according to some, fuel has the lowest value of any product that is derived from algae! Considering the wide range of applications algae are used for, one of the aspects to be considered while investing in algae energy business could be to assess how to profit from commercialising the cake and the left-over after extracting the oil, by using them for other applications / products. Also of interest here are products such as glycerine – which is a by-product of transesterification of algal oil into biodiesel – which have their own diverse applications. Indeed, some of the research and commercial programs around the world are exploring more avenues to develop high-value co-products from algae, from animal feeds to antibiotics to specialty chemicals. There are some efforts at some rather interesting applications as well, such as algae-based paper and concrete additives.

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In my previous post, the fuel applications of waste water algae were highlighted. This post aims to provide details on the non-fuel application of algae growing in waste water. In the non-fuel products category, a wide range of consumer, health and animal/fish feed products can be derived from algae.

A summary list of non-fuel applications of wastewater grown algae:

  • Animal & Fish Feed – Shrimp feed, Shellfish Diet, Marine Fish Larvae Cultivation
  • Chemicals & Fertilizer
  • Biopolymers & Bioplastics
  • Paints, Dyes and Colorants
  • Lubricants
  • Pollution Control
  • CO2 Sequestration
  • Uranium/Plutonium Sequestration
  • Fertilizer Runoff Reclamation
  • Sewage & Wastewater Treatment

Animal & Fish Feed: Animal feed and fish feed are produced from the biosolid residues left when lipids and carbohydrates have been extracted from algae. The major merit of algae as animal feed is that low-quality algal protein can be converted by the animals into higher quality protein in the form of meat or meat byproducts without the necessity for extensive pre-processing of the algal product.

Aquaculture – Micro-algae find uses as food and as live feed in aquaculture for production of bivalve molluscs, for juvenile stages of abalone, crustaceans and some fish species and for zooplankton used in aquaculture food chains. Micro-algae are an essential food source in the rearing of all stages of marine bivalve molluscs (clams, oysters, and scallops), the larval stages of some marine gastropods (abalone, conch), larvae of several marine fish species and penaeid shrimp, and zooplankton.

Fish Feed – A number of algae species are used as fish feed. The demand for more fish meal will increase as the demand for fish farms being utilized for human consumption grows due to the environmental effects over open ocean fishing. Algae are also used to feed the brine shrimp used to feed other species of farm-raised fish such as salmon. Thus, algae are in high demand for fish food in the aquaculture market and provide a great revenue stream for the algae industry.

Shrimp Feed – In the early stage of the shrimp production, the wastewater containing nitrogen, phosphorus and some trace elements improves the growth of the algae that provides the shrimp with sufficient feed. Algae serve as a valuable feed ingredient for the shrimp. In addition, they keep the water clean, because they take up CO2 and produce oxygen. Algae can reduce turbidity and phosphate in the effluent.

Chemicals & Fertilizers – The ability of certain forms of blue-green algae to carry out both photosynthesis and nitrogen fixation confers on them an ecological and agricultural advantage as a renewable natural resource of biological nitrogen. According to Bioconversion of Organic Residues for Rural Communities (UNU, 1979), Nitrogen is one of the most important crop nutrients, and the great demand for nitrogenous fertilizers is apparent from the more than 580 chemical fertilizer plants were in operation or under construction throughout the world, representing an investment of over US$10,000 million.

Other Non-fuel Applications of Algae 

Soil Conditioner – The California Department of Water Resources is of the opinion that, because algal products have higher nitrogen content than dried activated sludge, they may find a receptive market as a soil conditioner, particularly for lawn, golf greens, etc. Presence of various salts in the algal product combined with its slow rate of decomposition; make algae a desirable lawn conditioner.

Biopolymers & Bioplastics – Typically, long chain polymers, present in the algae lipids are used for making bioplastics. According to a report from the consulting firm Helmut Kaiser, the market for bioplastics is already significant, having reached over US$1 billion in 2007; it is expected to be worth over US$10 billion by 2020. A number of companies are entering and investing in the market with new applications and innovations in the automotive and electronics industry leading the market boom. Over 500 bioplastics processing companies are operating today, with more than 5000 expected by 2020.

Paints, Dyes & Colorants – The natural pigments produced by algae can be used as an alternative to chemical dyes and coloring agents. According to a report from the consulting firm Helmut Kaiser, the market for bioplastics is already significant, having reached over US$1 billion in 2007; it is expected to be worth over US$10 billion by 2020. A number of companies are entering and investing in the market with new applications and innovations in the automotive and electronics industry leading the market boom. Over 500 bioplastics processing companies are operating today, with more than 5000 expected by 2020.

  • Fast growing market, with a projected market size of $10 billion by 2020.
  • World market expected to grow 30% per year for next decade
  • Bioplastics could eventually capture 10%-20% of overall plastic mark

Source:  Read more from Oilgae’s Algae-Based Waste Water Treatment – The one and only such report in the world  Oilgae has published a unique report to assist those keen on understanding the algae-based waste water treatment technology and those wanting to venture into this industry. The Oilgae’s guide to waste water treatment is a comprehensive guide to understanding the algae-based waste water treatment, technolgies, challenges and the players that are involved in this industry. Link –http://www.oilgae.com/ref/report/wastewater_treatment/wastewater_treatment.html  

Read Related Blogs:

Fuel Products from Waste Water Algae

Waste Water Already Contains Nutrients for Algae Growth! Is there a requirement of adding additional nutrients for growing algae?

Solving the Issues of Current Waste Water Treatment Practices Using Algae

Commonly Used Algae Strains for Waste Water Treatment

Similarities and Differences of Treating Municipal Waste Water and Industrial Waste Water Using Algae

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