Journal of Applied Phycology

, Volume 24, Issue 3, pp 329–337 | Cite as

Hectare-scale demonstration of high rate algal ponds for enhanced wastewater treatment and biofuel production

  • Rupert CraggsEmail author
  • Donna Sutherland
  • Helena Campbell


High rate algal ponds (HRAPs) are shallow, paddlewheel-mixed open raceway ponds that are an efficient and cost-effective upgrade for the conventional wastewater treatment ponds used by communities and farms the world over. HRAPs provide improved natural disinfection and nutrient removal and can be further enhanced by carbon dioxide (CO2) addition to promote algal growth which is often carbon limited. This paper discusses the construction and operation of a 5-ha demonstration HRAP system treating primary settled wastewater at the Christchurch wastewater treatment plant, New Zealand. The system consisted of four 1.25-ha HRAPs that were constructed from an existing conventional pond. Algae were harvested from the HRAP effluent in specially designed settlers, which concentrated the algal/bacterial biomass to 1–2% organic solids for conversion to bio-crude oil following dewatering. Performance data from the first 15 months of HRAP operation (without CO2 addition) are presented. The four demonstration HRAPs had reasonable replication of both treatment performance and algal/bacterial productivity with similar annual average wastewater treatment efficiency (~50% removal of BOD5, ~87% removal of fBOD5, ~65% removal of ammoniacal-N, ~19% removal of dissolved reactive phosphorus and ~2 log removal of Escherichia coli), algal species composition and algal/bacterial biomass production (~8 g m−2 day −1 volatile suspended solids). These results were in good agreement with the results for pilot-scale HRAP without CO2 addition in New Zealand. This study provides further indication of the potential for energy efficient and effective wastewater treatment using HRAP, while biofuel conversion of the harvested algal bacterial biomass could provide a valuable niche distributed energy source for local communities.


Algal biofuel CO2 biofixation Nutrient removal Open raceway pond 



The authors would like to thank Christchurch City Council, particularly Mark Christison, Mike Bourke and James Feary, for their ongoing support of this project. We also thank George Payne for sourcing and setting up much of the automated control system; Greg Kelly for his assistance with operation and monitoring of the system; and Jason Park for contributing to much of the background research for this study. This research was funded by the New Zealand Foundation for Research Science and Technology, contract C01X0810.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rupert Craggs
    • 1
    Email author
  • Donna Sutherland
    • 1
  • Helena Campbell
    • 1
  1. 1.National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research Ltd. (NIWA)HamiltonNew Zealand

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