Biofuel  from Algae

With the goal of reducing the nation’s dependence of foreign oil, researchers currently have a great deal of interest in the use of algae for the production of biofuel. Algae are promising due to the high lipid or oil content, rapid growth, and ability to sequester the greenhouse gas, CO2. Other positive aspects of algae include not competing with food production, can be grown on land not suitable for food production, and do not require large amounts of fresh water. Algae remove nitrogen and phosphorus found in wastewaters, which reduce the impact on the receiving stream and eventually the Gulf of Mexico. Small-scale lab research has indicated the potential for 3,200 to 14,600 gallons of oil/acre/year; however large-volume outdoor projects have not yielded this amount, due to weather and temperature changes.

In May 2009, the University of Kansas placed four 3000-gallon tanks near the south secondary clarifier at the Lawrence Wastewater Treatment Plant with hopes to achieve the following with their research:

1.       To generate a stable naturally-occurring type of algae for maximum biofuel production; and

2.       To determine the potential for algae to remove nitrogen and phosphorus from the wastewater effluent.

The project was operated from May until they froze in December. They plan to restart the project again this spring and operate it through the warm weather months of 2010. Researchers will provide data to the City from the initial 2009 trials in February 2010. However, local news casts and print articles have highlighted this research, as well as publication in scientific journals and interest from the U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

Researchers involved with the project include:


Belinda Sturm

Assistant Professor - Environmental Engineering

University of Kansas


Val Smith

Professor - Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

University of Kansas


Jerry deNoyelles

Professor - Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

University of Kansas



Phosphorus Removal Pilot Project

In 2004, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment adopted the Surface Water Nutrient Reduction Plan, which focuses on reducing nitrogen and phosphorus in the waters of the state. Since then, the industry has searched for various methods to meet those goals, which are steadily becoming discharge permit requirements.

The Asahi Kasei Chemicals Corporation has developed an innovative water treatment process to remove and recover phosphorus from wastewater.  They worked with the Japan Sewage Works Agency to pilot test it in Japan and are working with Black & Veatch Corporation to provide independent pilot testing of the process in the United States. Lawrence has agreed to provide effluent from the wastewater treatment facility to assist this pilot project.

B&V has completed set-up and the initial startup of the pilot unit. Testing will begin in late January. After training from Asahi, professionals from B&V will oversee operation and monitoring of the pilot plant. B&V is also training students from KU to help with the project and giving them the opportunity to learn more about this state-of-the-art technology.

Participants involved with this project include:

Hisanao Aoki

Owner/Designer of Pilot


Masa Miyazaki

Owner – Manager


Jim Fitzpatrick

Operations – Black & Veatch


The pilot process includes a set of columns filled with specialized beads about the size of a grain of sand. Water and phosphorus molecules travel through pores in each bead, which is made of materials to trap the phosphorus inside the bead. The pilot unit also includes various tanks, pumps, valves, instruments and a computer system to automatically control the phosphorus removal process along with the chemical feeds that are used to recover the phosphorus. When the beads are full, the column is flushed with an alkaline solution and the phosphorus is recovered with lime to produce high-grade calcium phosphate. This product can be used as a raw material for fertilizer instead of mining phosphate rock, which is a nonrenewable resource whose reserves are being depleted as the world’s agricultural demands increase.  The pilot unit is housed in the wastewater treatment plant blower building and testing is expected to last for about 12 weeks.


Removing Disinfection Byproduct

Water treatment plants process surface and ground water to make it potable. The use of chlorine is necessary to disinfect the water.  However natural organic matter present in the source water can react with the chlorine to produce byproducts such as THMs and HAAs.  These byproducts are regulated by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and the Safe Drinking Water Acts through allowable limits.

Researchers have submitted a research proposal to the National Science Foundation to test a new baffled bioreactor technology. It is designed to control these byproducts by efficiently and economically removing natural organic matter prior to treatment. This technology requires no chemicals and limited energy use, but is expected to provide significant removal of the organic matter with natural bacteria already present in the raw source water. If successful, this technology will greatly impact the field of drinking water treatment and help water treatment facilities across the country meet regulatory requirements.

The Utilities Department has agreed to allow testing of a small-scale system at the Kaw River Water Treatment Plant. This pilot project is the first to be tested. The pilot test will have no impact on current water production or quality. However, the pilot project will use the same source water that the Kaw Plant uses. Once research funding is in place, researchers hope to begin testing in July, 2010.

Researchers involved with the project include:


Dr. Craig Adams

Chair - Civil, Environmental and Architectural Engineering

University of Kansas


Dr. Jianmin Wang


Frontier Environmental Technology   Rolla, MO