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Target Cultivation and Financing Parameters for Sustainable Production of Fuel and Feed from Microalgae

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journal contribution
posted on 04.03.2016, 00:00 by Léda N. Gerber, Jefferson W. Tester, Colin M. Beal, Mark E. Huntley, Deborah L. Sills
Production of economically competitive and environmentally sustainable algal biofuel faces technical challenges that are subject to high uncertainties. Here we identify target values for algal productivity and financing conditions required to achieve a biocrude selling price of $5 per gallon and beneficial environmental impacts. A modeling frameworkcombining process design, techno-economic analysis, life cycle assessment, and uncertainty analysiswas applied to two conversion pathways: (1) “fuel only (HTL)”, using hydrothermal liquefaction to produce biocrude, heat and power, and (2) “fuel and feed”, using wet extraction to produce biocrude and lipid-extracted algae, which can substitute components of animal and aqua feeds. Our results suggest that with supporting policy incentives, the “fuel and feed” scenario will likely achieve a biocrude selling price of less than $5 per gallon at a productivity of 39 g/m2/day, versus 47 g/m2/day for the “fuel only (HTL)” scenario. Furthermore, if lipid-extracted algae are used to substitute fishmeal, the process has a 50% probability of reaching $5 per gallon with a base case productivity of 23 g/m2/day. Scenarios with improved economics were associated with beneficial environmental impacts for climate change, ecosystem quality, and resource depletion, but not for human health.