Ben Peterson
Ben PetersonInvestigator
Ben Peterson is a student in the Biological Engineering Department and a member of the SWBEC Team

Abstract of the Week:
ABO Summit
by Ben Peterson

October 17, 2016
Utah’s hydraulic fracturing industry produces large quantities of wastewater, also known as produced water. This water contains high levels of contaminates such as salts and hydrocarbons, and variable concentration of nitrogen and phosphorus. Current technologies for dealing with this produced water are costly, with conventional methods including sub-surface injection and evaporation. Due to high cost, most produced water is treated as waste and dealt with accordingly. This project approaches this water as not waste but as a source of nutrients that can be used to grow and cultivate microalgae, which can be converted into a product stream.
Two strains of microalgae were grown in mixed culture using a Rotating Algal Biofilm Reactor (RABR), which was rotated in produced water taken from the Uinta Basin in southern Utah. The RABR was built at pilot scale to increase yield, and two substrata were used in construction, polystyrene and cotton rope. After testing was completed on motor power consumption, polystyrene in a disk configuration was chosen based on criteria that included low cost and high surface are to achieve the largest growth surface area to produced water volume ratio.
The microalgae strains that were cultivated were genetically characterized. One strain is a cyanobacteria that is present in the Logan Lagoons used for municipal wastewater treatment for the City of Logan, Utah. The other strain is present in the Great Salt Lake Utah. Harvested biofilm microalgae from the RABR were converted into biocrude using a hydrothermal liquefaction (HTL) reaction. The conversion of the biocrude gave a yield of 35% ash free dry weight and 58% of feedstock energy was recovered in the biocrude.
Jordan Wanlass
Jordan WanlassInvestigator
Jordan Wanlass is an undergraduate student (senior) in the Biological Engineering Department and a member of the SWBEC Team

Abstract of the Week:
Cyanobacterial Treatment of Produced Water Under Heterotrophic Conditions
by Jordan Wanlass

October 10, 2016
Produced water, which is wastewater from fracing or natural gas extraction using hydraulic fracturing, presents a challenge for management because of the large volumes and associated contaminants. In this project produced water is treated by bioaugmenting with a cyanobacteria isolated from the City of Logan, Utah Municipal Wastewater Treatment Lagoons. Objectives of this project include reducing the chemical oxygen demand (COD) by culturing the cyanobacteria (LLC2) under heterotrophic conditions in both aerobic and anaerobic environments and under dark conditions at room temperature. Control samples were autoclaved to remove biological activity. Laboratory reactors augmented with LLC2, reactors without LLC2, and an autoclaved set of reactors were monitored for change in the concentration of COD for a period of 80 days. Results demonstrated a 45% reduction in COD from 6600 mg/L in aerobic, non-autoclaved samples augmented with LLC2, and a 40% reduction in COD for samples not augmented with LLC2. Autoclaved samples demonstrated no statistically significant reduction in COD. In addition, aerobic conditions demonstrated improved COD reduction compared with anaerobic conditions.
Celeste Hancock
Celeste HancockInvestigator
Celeste Hancock is an undergraduate student (senior) in the Biological Engineering Department and is a member of the SWBEC team.

Abstract of the Week:
Microalgae Treat Municipal Wastewater with High Ammonia Concentration
by Celeste Hancock

September 12, 2016
High ammonia concentrations that can be present in the filtrate of biosolids from anaerobic digesters may present a challenge for treatment by microalgae due to toxicity and high ammonia loading. Rotating algal biofilm reactors (RABRs) have been used to remediate nitrogen in wastewaters at concentrations lower than 100 mg/L ammonia. The effectiveness of these reactors in terms of nitrogen remediation and algal biomass production are being tested with wastewater with ammonia concentrations greater than 500 ppm at the Central Valley Water Reclamation Facility, the largest municipal wastewater treatment plant in the State of Utah. Biomass produced from treating the wastewater can be used in anaerobic digesters to produce biogas or can be added to compost to increase its fertilizer value. Water samples from the anaerobic biosolids filter pressate and microalgae from the trickling filters were collected at the CVWRF and are being tested using laboratory scale RABRs in batch mode. Nitrogen concentration and biomass production were monitored over time. Preliminary results been have demonstrated that the mixed microalgae culture can successfully grow when exposed to a high ammonia concentrations. This algae culture has also demonstrated the ability to significantly reduce the nitrogen concentration with treatment time. Further tests will be conducted in order to determine the effects of light and dark cycles and to determine the effect of different materials used as substrata for biomass production.
Iegor Pererva
Iegor PerervaInvestigator
Iegor Pererva is a PhD student in the Department of Biological Engineering and is a member of SWBEC.

Abstract of the Week:
Treatment of Petroleum Refinery Wastewater in Up-flow Anaerobic Sludge Blanket Reactor
by Iegor Pererva

September 5, 2016
This research project addresses the challenge of petroleum refinery wastewater (PRW) treatment under anaerobic conditions. PRW contains refractory (difficult to biodegrade) organic and toxic chemicals, and conventional treatment uses energy intensive aerobic processes that do not recover energy or produce bioproducts of value.
The primary objective of this project is to develop an anaerobic processes that utilizes the upflow anaerobic sludge blanket (UASB) reactor to treat PRW to reduce the concentration of organic chemicals, measured as chemical oxygen demand and total organic carbon. The co-objectives include recovery of energy as biomethane and cultivation of microalgae biomass on UASB effluent for nutrient capture and recycle that can be used to balance the carbon to nitrogen ratio within the UASB for more efficient operation.
In addition, granulated sludge that is produced within the UASB reactor is actually a “willing horse” or “hardy beast” for the treatment process and it is also a bioproduct. The added value is its ability to consume PRW contaminants and survive during transportation outside of the UASB to be used as working agent in newly built UASB reactors. Also, the excessively formed granular sludge could be potentially used as a solid fertilizer. Therefore the research project embodies the concept of the conversion of fossil fuel waste into biofuel and bioproducts.
Preliminary UASB design and operation has been tested, and current activities include petroleum refinery wastewater characterization and treatment in biomethane potential assays and in laboratory scale UASB reactors.
Michael Flores
Michael FloresInvestigator
Michael Flores is an undergraduate student (Junior) in the Biological Engineering Department and is a member of the SWBEC team.

Abstract of the Week:
Psychrophilic Microalgae for Wastewater Treatment and Nutrient Recycling in Cold Weather
by Michael Flores

August 29, 2016
Wastewater treatment is an important topic right now in Utah as regulations concerning stricter removal of nutrients including nitrogen and phosphorus are being enforced. The Sustainable Waste to Bioproducts Engineering Center at Utah State University is currently experimenting with treating waste water using Rotating Algal Biomass Reactors (RABR). Due to the cold weather conditions during the winter, RABR wastewater treatment currently is most effective during spring, summer, and fall weather conditions.
In a new SWBEC project, psychrophilic microalgae, whose optimal growth temperatures align with that of Utah’s cold winters, is being considered to bioagment the polyculture microflora of the RABR system specifically during the winter season. Temperature and light variables representative of winter conditions are being tested to determine their effect on the cultivation of the microalgae strain LLC2, a possible psychrophilic microalgae local to the Logan (North Utah) area. LLC2 has been demonstrated to take up nutrients in municipal wastewater and nutrients in industrial wastewater, including petroleum and produced water, and will be added to the RABR system during winter conditions for testing and evaluation regarding nutrient uptake rate and extent in municipal and industrial wastewaters.
Michael Hansen
Michael HansenInvestigator
Michael Hansen is a BS student in the Mechanical and Aerospace Department at USU and is a member of the SWBEC team.

Abstract of the Week:
Microalgae Lipid and Protein Isolation Process (LPIP) using Wastewater Cultivated Microalgae
by Michael Hansen

August 22, 2016
Human dependencies on fossil fuels from fracing and drilling of limited resources and on protein from agriculture has become major concern that has motivated research with the objective to decrease these dependencies. One of the areas of research to address these problems is the cultivation of microalgae utilizing wastewaters, whereby the microalgae could be utilized for both biofuels and feed for aquaculture and agriculture.
A new procedure known as the Lipid and Protein Isolation Process (LPIP) uses sodium hydroxide and chilled acetone to extract algal lipids and proteins for agricultural and aquaculture applications. The process uses the base NaOH to lyse the microalgae cells, whereby the lipids and proteins are partitioned from the solid phase to the solution phase. The lipids provide a pathway to biodeisel production and the protein may provide a source of feed for fish and cattle. Chilled acetone is then added to the solution phase to precipitate the algal lipids and proteins for collection and applications in the bioproducts identified. This process is being compared to a similar process using sulfuric acid for protein precipitation on the basis of lipid and protein yield, relative amounts of chemicals used, and cost.
Results thus far have shown that the LPIP produces an increase in protein yield, but a decrease in the lipid yield compared with the process that utilizes sulfuric acid. Testing is ongoing to evaluate the effect of downstream parameters including time, temperature, and strength of solvent (acetone) on the yields and costs associated with lipid and protein production.
Zak Fica
Zak Fica Investigator
Zak Fica is a BS and MS student in the Biological Engineering Department at USU and is a member of the SWBEC team.

Abstract of the Week:
Nutrient Recycling into Microalgae Biomass for Processing into Feed and Fertilizer for Dairy Wastewater
by Zak Fica

August 15, 2016
The dairy production industry creates a large wastewater source worldwide. Dairy wastewater can serve as a nutrient source for the production of algal biomass that can be used as a feedstock for downstream processing into bioproducts that we are producing and investigating, including feed in aquaculture and agriculture (dairy cattle) systems, as well as fertilizer.
Algal biomass is generated using a Rotating Algal Biofilm Reactor (RABR) system, designed at the Sustainable Waste to Bioproducts Engineering Center at USU and used to remediate dairy wastewater through nutrient uptake. The RABR system is able to treat turbid and highly colored dairy wastewater because the microalgae that grow as a biofilm are rotated out of the water and into natural sunlight during daylight that provides the source of energy to drive the photosynthetic cultivation of the microalgae.
Biofilm-based microalgal productivity and yield were determined as functions of organic chemical loading and water temperature utilizing wastewater from the Caine Dairy at USU. Equations that were generated can be used for dairy waste streams with known concentration of chemical oxygen-demanding substances and temperature to predict biofilm productivity and nutrient uptake, including nitrogen and phosphorus.
Alan Hodges receiving award from Dr. Sims
Alan Hodges receiving award from Dr. Sims

SWBEC Undergraduate Student Award of Excellence presented to Mr. Alan Hodges

July 28, 2016
Mr. Alan Hodges received the 2016 Undergraduate Student Award of Excellence on July 28 from the Sustainable Waste-to-Bioproducts Engineering Center (SWBEC). The award was presented by Co-Director Dr. Ronald Sims at a SWBEC Conference that hosted the international engineering firm WesTech-Inc. The award recognizes outstanding performance and contributions to the operations, research, and achievements of the SWBEC, and was signed by Dr. Sims and by Co-Director Mr. Issa Hamud representing the City of Logan Environmental Department. Dr. Sims stated that “Mr. Alan Hodges has exemplified a leadership role in planning and executing activities related to multiple research and development projects since 2013 sponsored through the SWBEC.”

The mission of SWBEC is to convert society’s wastes into valuable products to treat water for reuse, protect the public health and the environment, and promote resource recovery, sustainable production of bioproducts of value, and new industries and new jobs in support of economic development. SWBEC was approved by the Utah State University Board of trustees, November 2010, and the State of Utah Commissioner of Higher Education.