ALGATEC is a Research for SME project included in the Seventh R+D Framework Programme of the European Union. It started the 15th of April of 2008 and will last for two years. Its objective is to propose a cost-efficient system for the on-site treatment and reuse of washing water generated in small olive oil mills, with high pollutant content, by means of an affordable and compact photobioreactor using microalgae followed by a membrane technology module, capable to recover and recycle the majority of the drinkable water used in the process of olives washing. Furthermore, the problem of the disposal of wastewater from olive oil mills will be reduced because the reutilisation of the washing water will diminish the overall volume of wastewater, with both economical and environmental benefits. The current methods of wastewater disposal increase the overall production costs, and additionally they are also environmentally unacceptable and extremely inefficient in terms of water use. Thus, the proposed project will enable all participating SMEs to improve their competitive position opening a market of about 12,000 olive oil producers only in Europe.
The patented concept of a photobioreactor using algae intends to use the free and nearly unlimited available source sunlight in order to reduce the water consumption, and to improve its quality by algae nutrient uptake. In addition, the system captures CO2 from the atmosphere for the biological processes.
To achieve the project objectives, ALGATEC will create a procedure for the treatment and reuse of washing water from the olive cleaning process. The ALGATEC system will include the pre-treatment of the washing water (preliminary filtration with a laminar settlement tank), the main treatment with a photobioreactor using microalgae and the post-photobioreactor treatment based on membrane filtration.
The main advantages of the ALGATEC system application are: