BioEnergy Research

, Volume 12, Issue 1, pp 217–228 | Cite as

A Cyanobacterial Sidestream Nutrient Removal Process and Its Life Cycle Implications

  • Carlos Quiroz-AritaEmail author
  • John J. Sheehan
  • Nawa Raj Baral
  • Alexander Hughes
  • Graham Peers
  • Brock Hodgson
  • Sybil Sharvelle
  • Thomas H. Bradley


This study proposes a novel integration of a municipal wastewater treatment facility (WWTF) with a cyanobacterial nutrient removal process for sidestream wastewater treatment. A life cycle assessment (LCA) approach was used to determine the effectiveness and environmental performances of the integrated system. The LCA is populated by models of wastewater process engineering, material balance, cyanobacterial growth, and kinetics of anaerobic digestion. The cyanobacteria growth model incorporates chlorophyll synthesis, nitrogen uptake, photosynthesis, centrate inhibition, and competition for nitrogen between cyanobacteria and nitrifiers. Modeling results are validated against experiments with Synechocystis sp. PCC6803 grown in sludge centrate. With a maximum specific growth rate of 1.09 day−1, the nitrogen removal rate of the proposed WWTF would be increased by 15% when compared to the baseline wastewater treatment facility with a biological nutrient removal process. Incorporating the cyanobacterial nutrient removal process as the sidestream wastewater treatment of a conventional activated sludge process reduces the total nitrogen concentrations discharged from the WWTF from 25.9 to 15.2 mg 1−1. Methane yield was found to be increased by 4% of the baseline value when cyanobacterial biomass was co-digested with the activated sludge. Life cycle energy use and greenhouse gas emissions were found to be reduced by 8% and 17%, respectively, relative to a baseline wastewater treatment facility. Overall, a cyanobacteria-based sidestream municipal wastewater treatment process could be an effective and environmentally sustainable biological nutrient removal process in the future addressing the water-energy-food nexus.


Sidestream wastewater treatment Biological nutrient removal Centrate Cyanobacteria Life cycle assessment 



The authors acknowledge National Science Foundation grant number 1332404. This publication was also partially made possible by USEPA grant RD835570. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the grantee and do not necessarily represent the official views of the USEPA. Further, USEPA does not endorse the purchase of any commercial products or services mentioned in the publication. The authors also acknowledge Lincoln H. Mueller, Jr., Utilities Project Manager and the City of Fort Collins, CO for their support providing access to Drake Water Reclamation Facility (DWRF), space for the installation of the experimental work of this research, and operational plant and laboratory data concerning the wastewater processes.

Supplementary material

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ESM 1 (PDF 607 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Mechanical EngineeringColorado State UniversityFort CollinsUSA
  2. 2.Soil & Crop Science DepartmentColorado State UniversityFort CollinsUSA
  3. 3.Biology DepartmentColorado State UniversityFort CollinsUSA
  4. 4.Civil & Environmental EngineeringColorado State UniversityFort CollinsUSA

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