DEP – New Algae Biofuel Pilot Project

December 7, 2010

After hearing about this on the news today I decided to do some further research. DEP is working in partnership with Biohabitats, HydroQual and the University of Arkansas, to pilot this project which involves converting algae into biofuel. The cost of the project is $387,000. It involves running treated wastewater through the algal turf scrubber (mechanical device) which is built at the Rockaway Wastewater Treatment Plant, located in Queens.

The wastewater which is run through the machine contains phosphorous and nitrogen which are the two main primary sources of nutrients enabling plant growth. Through the process of photosynthesis, algae begins to grow on the algal turf scrubber, which is later harvested and made into butanol (high quality fuel).

At 10 to 14 day intervals, the algae is removed using wet/dry vacuums. This is needed because algae has a high water content and the removal system allows for easy separation of the algae from the water. The algae is then sent to the chemical engineering department at the University of Arkansas, where it is converted to biofuel, which can be used as an alternative to gasoline.

The algae biofuel project is part of the Jamaica Bay Watershed Protection Plan. Last month, DEP released an updated version of the plan, which shows the progress DEP is making on its goals to protect one of the most bountiful wildlife habitats in the Northeastern United States and tracks initiatives including wastewater treatment plant upgrades, oyster and eelgrass pilot restoration projects, a wetlands restoration.

This is one of the ways they are trying to think outside the box when it comes to going green.



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