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Coupling Carbon Capture from a Power Plant with Semi-automated Open Raceway Ponds for Microalgae Cultivation

Margarita Acedo1, Juan R. Gonzalez Cena2, Kasi M. Kiehlbaugh3, Kimberly L. Ogden1,2

Abstract

In the United States, 35% of the total carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions come from the electrical power industry, of which 30% represent natural gas electricity generation. Microalgae can biofix CO2 10 to 15 times faster than plants and convert algal biomass to products of interest, such as biofuels. Thus, this study presents a protocol that demonstrates the potential synergies of microalgae cultivation with a natural gas power plant situated in the southwestern United States in a hot semi-arid climate. State-of-the-art technologies are used to enhance carbon capture and utilization via the green algal species Chlorella sorokiniana, which can be further processed into biofuel. We describe a protocol involving a semi-automated open raceway pond and discuss the results of its performance when it was tested at the Tucson Electric Power plant, in Tucson, Arizona. Flue gas was used as the main carbon source to control pH, and Chlorella sorokiniana was cultivated. An optimized medium was used to grow the algae. The amount of CO2 added to the system as a function of time was closely monitored. Additionally, other physicochemical factors affecting algal growth rate, biomass productivity, and carbon fixation were monitored, including optical density, dissolved oxygen (DO), electroconductivity (EC), and air and pond temperatures. The results indicate that a microalgae yield of up to 0.385 g/L ash-free dry weight is attainable, with a lipid content of 24%. Leveraging synergistic opportunities between CO2 emitters and algal farmers can provide the resources required to increase carbon capture while supporting the sustainable production of algal biofuels and bioproducts.

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