Microalgae for biomethane production
Latvia University of Agriculture, Faculty of Engineering, Institute of Energetics, Cakstes blvd 5, LV 3001 Jelgava, Latvia; *Correspondence: email@example.com
Competition for arable land between food and energy producers has begun in Latvia. Biogas producers are seeking to use the hitherto unused land. There is a need to investigate the suitability of various biomasses for energy production. Maize is the dominating crop for biogas production in Latvia, but it is expensive to grow. The cultivation of more varied biomass with good economics and low environmental impact is thus desirable. Microalgae can be grown in pipes, basins and also in open ponds. This paper shows the results from the anaerobic digestion of microalgae Chlorella vulgaris, cultivated with fertilizer Varicon in open pond and harvested on 27 October and centrifuged (Study 1). The anaerobic digestion process was investigated for biogas production in sixteen 0.75 l digesters, operated in batch mode at temperature 38 ± 1.0 °C. The average methane yield per unit of dry organic matter added (DOM) from digestion of Chlorella vulgaris was 0.331 l gDOM-1. The second investigation (Study 2) used fresh biomass of Chlorella vulgaris harvested on 10–15 June with low dry matter content, as it was obtained from 4 m deep open pond without centrifugation. Anaerobic digestion process was provided in 4 digesters with volume of 5 l each. Average methane yield from the digestion of Chlorella vulgaris was 0.290 l gDOM-1, which is comparable to methane yield obtainable from maize silage or other energy crop silages. Microalgae Chlorella vulgaris can be successfully cultivated for biogas production from May to October or at least 170–180 days in a year under the agro-ecological conditions in Latvia.