The consortium has already tested INCOVER technologies individually at lab scale. The innovation of INCOVER project comes from the combination of all INCOVER technologies, for a bio-production and resource recovery-based wastewater treatment. The description of each technology is as follows:

PHA Production

PBR system
  • The  hybrid tubular horizontal photobioreactors (for simplicity, PBRs) system was developed as a combination of an open raceway pond and a closed tubular PBR. Considering the advantages of both designs: the closed part will provide a better pH follow up, better protection against culture contamination, better mixing, less evaporative loss and higher biomass productions; the open part will aid mainly to dissipate excessive dissolved oxygen in the liquor concentration. The whole designed is covered by a patent. Initial tests have demonstrated a productivity of > 20 gr/m2d of algal biomass during spring-summer season.

    HRAP System

    Technology description


    Bio-plastics production has been made through a two-stage anaerobic-photosynthetic system, using anaerobic pretreatment and High Rate Algae Pond (HRAP) systems.

    • At lab scale :

    Project partner, IBET, performed PHA production lab tests using 2 PBR (photo-bioreactors) that simulate El Torno (Chiclana) wastewater treatment ponds, with two different mixing systems: jet mixing and paddle wheel. The tests have been conducted with real fermented wastewater from AQUALIA and results indicated a successful enrichment of the reactors with 15-20% PHA accumulating photosynthetic mixed cultures. 

    Lab scale reactors simulating different strategies and Chiclana ponds operated by IBET


    • At demo scale:

    PHA production at demo scale is currently being operated by Aqualia. Two UASB (Upflow anaerobic sludge blanket, 20 m3 each) fed with molasses and pretreated wastewater permit to obtain a fermented effluent. Then, two jet mixed ponds are being fed with the fermented waste and supplemented with fertilizer (N and P source). 

    After several weeks of operation purple bacteria have finally been selected (see the left pond on the figure below). The process will be optimized in the following months. Right pond is still with microalgae dominance, as the starting up was two weeks later than the other one.

    Pond 1 and pond 2 for PHA production at Chiclana during the feeding phase. (AQUALIA) 





    Key benefits of the technology





    • Use of simple and low cost High Rate Algae Ponds (HRAP) for Industrial PHA production
    • Coupling of wastewater remediation to bio-plastic production permits the redefinition of waste streams as biotechnological feedstocks (Fradinho et al., 2013a).
    • Use of mixed microbial cultures instead of the pure cultures and costly substrates which are used nowadays for Industrial PHA production. The application of mixed microbial cultures avoids the cost of sterilization equipment and the use of expensive refined substrates, as they can be operated in open systems and employ inexpensive industrial and fermentable by-products (Reis et al., 2011).
    • Phototrophic PHA production which display comparable PHA yields as aerobic pure or mixed culture enrichments without the need of aeration, thereby lowering operational costs
    • A wide range of VFA (volatile fatty acids) are able to be taken up (such as acetate, propionate and butyrate), particularly those typically found in anaerobically fermented wastewater (Fradinho et al. 2014), and produce PHA copolymers (HB-co-HV) that reduce brittleness, increase processability and broaden the range of applications.


    Objectives by the end of the project 

    • To demonstrate PHA production through microalgae/bacteria bioprocesses treating WW using HRAP systems achieving a rate of 25 gVS /m2d and 0.4 PHA/kgVS.
    • To develop, implement and validate optical monitoring and control of in order to reach optimal operation of INCOVER demo solutions


    Target application / end-users

    • Municipal Wastewater Treatment Plants
    • Agro-industrial waste and wastewater from fish canning, abattoir, winery, dairy, sugar etc.


    Technology Readiness Level (TRL)

    TRL 7