Geographic analysis of the feasibility of collocating algal biomass production with wastewater treatment plants

Environ Sci Technol. 2012 Oct 16;46(20):11426-34. doi: 10.1021/es302127f. Epub 2012 Sep 26.


Resource demand analyses indicate that algal biodiesel production would require unsustainable amounts of freshwater and fertilizer supplies. Alternatively, municipal wastewater effluent can be used, but this restricts production of algae to areas near wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs), and to date, there has been no geospatial analysis of the feasibility of collocating large algal ponds with WWTPs. The goals of this analysis were to determine the available areas by land cover type within radial extents (REs) up to 1.5 miles from WWTPs; to determine the limiting factor for algal production using wastewater; and to investigate the potential algal biomass production at urban, near-urban, and rural WWTPs in Kansas. Over 50% and 87% of the land around urban and rural WWTPs, respectively, was found to be potentially available for algal production. The analysis highlights a trade-off between urban WWTPs, which are generally land-limited but have excess wastewater effluent, and rural WWTPs, which are generally water-limited but have 96% of the total available land. Overall, commercial-scale algae production collocated with WWTPs is feasible; 29% of the Kansas liquid fuel demand could be met with implementation of ponds within 1 mile of all WWTPs and supplementation of water and nutrients when these are limited.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Agriculture / statistics & numerical data
  • Biofuels*
  • Biomass
  • Bioreactors
  • Fertilizers / analysis
  • Fertilizers / statistics & numerical data
  • Fresh Water / chemistry*
  • Kansas
  • Microalgae / physiology*
  • Waste Disposal, Fluid / statistics & numerical data*
  • Waste Water / chemistry*
  • Waste Water / statistics & numerical data
  • Water Pollution, Chemical / statistics & numerical data


  • Biofuels
  • Fertilizers
  • Waste Water