Biofuels Production projects
A Realistic Technology and Engineering Assessment of Algae Biofuel Production - Completed
This project evaluated the prospects for the large-scale cultivation and harvesting of algae followed by its conversion to various biofuels. The research team carried out an independent integrated assessment of the technological, engineering, energy balance, and environmental aspects of algae-based biofuel (in particular algae oil).
The results of the present study, based on a detailed de novo analysis, project high costs for microalgae biofuels production. Even with low capital costs, it is not possible to produce microalgae biofuels cost-competitively with fossil fuels, or even with other biofuels, without major advances in technology. Doubling biomass and oil productivity through strain selection and genetic modification is a major area for long-term cost improvements. These strains must then be cultivated reliably in the outdoor ponds and harvested cheaply — major challenges that may require a decade’s effort or longer to become practical. Producing microalgae for biofuel in conjunction with wastewater treatment could allow for practical, near-term development of engineering, technological, and human resources in this field.
Our research team has carried out an independent, integrated assessment of the technological, engineering, energy balance, and environmental aspects of algae-based biofuel (in particular algae oil). During the course of this one-year study, we have considered net energy analysis, water/land resources available in the U.S. for such systems, regulatory issues (in particular use of GMOs), and related topics. The limiting factors in the involved processes were identified and recommendations for targeted research are made in the final report. In addition to the biotechnological aspects, engineering, resource, economic, and regulatory issues are reviewed and realistic prospects for advances suggested with the caveat that this is a dynamic and rapidly evolving field of research.
Published in 2010
A Realistic Technology and Engineering Assessment of Algae Biofuel Production, Tryg Lundquist, Ian Woertz, Nigel Quinn, John Benemann, Energy Biosciences Institute Report, October 2010; also, Digital Commons @ Cal Poly, October 1, 2010.