ALGAL VALORISATION AND REMEDIATION OF ACID MINE DRAINAGE

INITIATOR FUND 

Project period: May – July 2014 

This community later received Accelerator Funding for the project: AVaRICE: Algal Valorisation and Remediation of metal Ion Contaminated Effluents

GW4 community leads

University of Bath: Christopher Chuck 
University of Bristol: Tom Scott 
Cardiff University: Devin Sapsford 
University of Exeter: Chris Bryan (PI) 
Plymouth Marine Laboratory: Mike Allen 

Project overview

The overarching aim of this research strategy is to develop an algal-based system for combined remediation and valorisation of acid mine drainage (AMD) and potentially other metalliferous effluents. 

Background 

Water pollution is a major global problem and accounts for more than 14,000 deaths per day. By 2025, 1.8 billion people will be living in areas with absolute water scarcity and two thirds of the world faces drinking water shortages. Mining contributes greatly to water pollution through generation and uncontrolled release of acid mine drainage (AMD), a highly polluted water runoff from operating and abandoned mines. 

Affordable and sustainable energy provision is another global challenge. Biofuels are promoted as modern alternatives however current-generation biofuels have limited environmental benefits while putting pressure on land and water resources. Algal biofuels could overcome many drawbacks of terrestrial plant-based biofuels but are currently more energy-intensive and expensive.  

We aim to develop an algal-based system for combined remediation and valorisation of AMD. This novel business model seeks to use biofuel production and removal of metals to offset AMD remediation cost and could be economically viable, environmentally beneficial and globally applicable. 

Project summary 

This project has led to the creation of a strong complementary multidisciplinary consortium. Through workshops and site visits the community established links with, and gained support from, key industry partners such as the Coal Authority and Veolia. 

Two collaborative research projects were developed. A joint NERC-industrial CASE application was submitted by PML (Plymouth Marine Laboratory) and the University of Bristol. As a result of their collaboration in this project, PML have agreed to donate common photobioreactor systems to the University of Bath and the University of Exeter. The University of Bath and PML arranged a staff and student exchange programme. 

A successful application was submitted for GW4 Accelerator funding.