A comparative evaluation of design factors on bubble column operation in photosynthetic biogas upgrading

Document Type : Research Paper


1 Environmental Research Institute, MaREI Centre, University College Cork, Cork, Ireland.

2 School of Engineering, University College Cork, Cork, Ireland.


Studies attempting to optimise photosynthetic biogas upgrading by simultaneous investigation of the bubble column-photobioreactor setup have experienced considerable variability in results and conclusions. To identify the sources of such variation, this work quantitatively compared seven design factors (superficial gas velocity; liquid to gas flow rate (L/G) ratio; empty bed residence time; liquid inlet pH; liquid inlet alkalinity; temperature; and algal concentration) using the L16 Taguchi orthogonal array as a screening design of experiment. Assessments were performed using the signal to noise (S/N) ratio on the performance of CO2 removal (CO­2 removal efficiency, CO2 absorption rate, and overall CO2 mass transfer coefficient) and O2 stripping (O2 concentration in biomethane and O2 flow rate in biomethane). Results showed that pH and L/G ratio were the most critical design factors. Temperature and gas residence times had minimal impact on the biomethane composition.  The interactive effect between pH and L/G ratio was the most impactful, followed by the interactive effects between superficial gas velocity and L/G ratio and pH on CO2 removal efficiency. The impact of L/G ratio, algal concentration, and pH (in that order of impact) caused up to a 90% variation in oxygen content in biomethane. However, algal concentration had a diminishing role as the L/G ratio increased. Using only the statistically significant main effects and interactions, the biomethane composition (CO2% and O2%) was predicted with over 95% confidence through regression equations for superficial gas velocity up to 0.2 cm/s.

Graphical Abstract

A comparative evaluation of design factors on bubble column operation in photosynthetic biogas upgrading


  • Multiple factors and their interaction influence photosynthetic biogas upgrading.
  • pH and liquid to gas flow (L/G) ratio affect CO2 removal the most.  
  • Interaction between pH and L/G ratio has the highest influence on CO2 removal. 
  • L/G ratio, followed by algal concentration has the highest influence on O2 stripping.
  • Bubble column operation predicted to produce grid quality biomethane.


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