Inspenet, August 28, 2023.
The Faculty of Agronomy of the University of Buenos Aires (Fauba), in collaboration with Agua y Saneamientos Argentinos (AySA) and other institutions, have inaugurated the first water treatment plant with microalgae in Argentina . According to a scientific and technological popularization article by Fauba called “Sobre la Tierra” and written by Sebastián Tamashiro, this plant is the result of an inter-institutional project.
In this project, microorganisms have been used to reduce daily large amounts of pollutants in 12,000 liters of urban wastewater and, at the same time, produce around 1 kg of inputs for biofertilizers . The initiative seeks to offer both environmental and productive opportunities, with low energy and economic costs, with the intention of expanding this experience to municipalities and companies in the agricultural sector throughout the country.
The team involved in the project explained that “its three 40 m² reactors, called raceways because of their race track shape, are capable of reduce 90% of organic matter, 95% of nitrogen and 50% of phosphorus, among other contaminants of up to 12,000 liters of water and generate almost a kilo of raw material to produce bioinputs”.
Because microalgae are found in different aquatic environments, Agustín Rearte, a professor at Fauba’s Department of Inorganic and Analytical Chemistry, mentions that they are currently used as food supplements for both humans and fish. “These two properties are applied in the first microalgae water treatment plant in Argentina. Microalgae remove nutrients and organic matter from wastewater, which is equivalent to “treating the water.” As its biomass increases, it becomes “They can be used as biofertilizers. After getting good results on a lab scale, we decided to validate this technology in a larger setting.”
The microalgae-based plant is located at AySA’s Sudoeste Treatment Plant, which is responsible for treating urban sewage wastewater from the La Matanza region, in the province of Buenos Aires. “In a single day, the algae managed to treat 12,000 liters of water and reduce 90% of organic matter, 95% of nitrogen and 50% of phosphorus, among other pollutants. The maximum daily production of microalgal biomass was 760 grams”, they report.
More details about the microalgae water treatment plant
According to Rearte, the pilot plant works with three reactors: “It has an agitation system that drives the water and distributes the algae evenly. The reactors are shallow so that sunlight reaches the microalgae. This system reduces the energy and economic costs of a conventional plant and also produces a bioproduct to be applied in agriculture”.
“The facility is equipped with a monitoring and analysis system that evaluates the operation of the plant. “We have implemented virtual learning models and artificial intelligence that allow us to optimize and automate its operations, in addition to forecasting its performance in other locations in the country. Our goal is to consolidate this technology and extend its application in both the public and private sectors. Microalgae treatment plants could be implemented in municipalities without water treatment systems or with inefficient processes and sufficient available space, as well as in agricultural facilities such as feedlots, dairy farms, and other intensive animal production systems,” he explained.
Along the same lines, Carolina González, from the AySA Research Center, highlighted the importance of collaboration between the company and the academic world: “This link allows us to exchange knowledge and develop projects like this microalgae plant.” As reported, other collaborators in the project include the University of Almería, the artificial intelligence company TDK, the Ministry of Science and Technology of the Nation, Ubatec and the Bunge y Born Foundation.
“It is very important to be able to apply these innovations in the territory and that the projects have a great social impact. That they reach as many people as possible”, he closed.