CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Researchers from the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) and scientists from New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) are collaborating with industry partners to study harmful algal bloom (HAB) mitigation technology in Chautauqua Lake, New York, from Aug. 19 through Sept. 4.
HABs impact the environment and economy across the nation due to degradation of water quality in impacted water bodies. ERDC researchers and their partners are studying and improving a method for removing and disposing of blue-green algae that comprise the HABs. The process is called the Harmful Algal Bloom Interception, Treatment, and Transformation System, or HABITATS.
In a baseline demonstration in Florida in 2019, the HABITATS approach showed promise in removing algae from water and then breaking down the algae into useful products such as biofuels and fertilizer in a laboratory using a process called hydrothermal liquefaction. The process also destroys algal toxins that are sometimes present with blue-green algal blooms.
In 2020, the ERDC and its partners are assessing new technologies to improve the fuel yields, scalability and deployability of the HABITATS process. The ERDC is collaborating with engineering firm AECOM to demonstrate an on-shore algae interception and treatment system and assess several new technical upgrades. A research team from the University of Illinois is demonstrating a pilot scale hydrothermal liquefaction system for algae transformation into fuel at pilot scale.
Dr. Martin Page, ERDC Operational Water Research team leader, said, “The research demonstration will test energy efficiency improvements to the current technology and use new organic chemical coagulants to increase fuel yields.”
To make the system more deployable, the ERDC is also developing a mobile shipboard treatment system that will undergo initial testing on Chautauqua Lake for harvesting microalgae while cleaning the water in a contained system.
The ERDC team is testing the efficiency of the current system and making improvements on the HAB mitigation process as the research evolves.
Page added, “The information learned from the Chautauqua Lake demonstration will improve the technology so that one day a full-scale, longer-term deployment may be possible.”
The 2020 Chautauqua Lake project research goals are:
- Test HABITATS during active bloom conditions
- Validate the on-shore treatment system with upgraded organic flocculants and a rapid dewatering system to maximize throughput and fuel conversion (ultimately to achieve energy neutral operations)
- Perform preliminary testing, optimization and validation of the shipboard algae removal system to deploy to bloom areas on the open water
- Validate hydrothermal liquefaction technology for conversion of algae into biocrude at pilot scale
- Generate critical data to inform future full-scale designs and deployments
“Residents and visitors depend on Chautauqua Lake for drinking water, recreation and economic activity, but it is vulnerable to harmful algal blooms that we must mitigate and prevent,” said U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York. “I am pleased that the Army Corps has heeded my call to tackle the threat of harmful algal blooms with this demonstration study.”
The results of the 2020 Chautauqua Lake HABITATS demonstration will be published in a technical report later this year.
To learn more about the HABITATS technology and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers research efforts, visit https://www.erdc.usace.army.mil/ Media/Fact-Sheets/Fact-Sheet-Article-View/Article/1920665/ harmful-algal-bloom-interception-treatment-and-transformation-system-habitats/.