Energy balance and environmental impact analysis of marine microalgal biomass production for biodiesel generation in a photobioreactor pilot plant

E. Sevigné Itoiz, C. Fuentes-Grünewald, C. M. Gasol, E. Garcés, E. Alacid, S. Rossi, J. Rieradevall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

53 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

A life cycle assessment (LCA) and an energy balance analysis of marine microalgal biomass production were conducted to determine the environmental impacts and the critical points of production for large scale planning. The artificial lighting and temperature conditions of an indoor bubble column photobioreactor (bcPBR) were compared to the natural conditions of an equivalent outdoor system. Marine microalgae, belonging to the dinoflagellate and raphidophyte groups, were cultured and the results were compared with published LCA data obtained from green microalgae (commonly freshwater algae). Among the species tested, Alexandrium minutum was chosen as the target marine microalgae for biomass production under outdoor conditions, although there were no substantial differences between any of the marine microalgae studied. Under indoor culture conditions, the total energy input for A. minutum was 923 MJ kg -1 vs. 139 MJ kg -1 for outdoor conditions. Therefore, a greater than 85% reduction in energy requirements was achieved using natural environmental conditions, demonstrating the feasibility of outdoor culture as an alternative method of bioenergy production from marine microalgae. The growth stage was identified as the principal source of energy consumption for all microalgae tested, due to the electricity requirements of the equipment, followed by the construction material of the bcPBR. The global warming category (GWP) was 6 times lower in outdoor than in indoor conditions. Although the energy balance was negative under both conditions, this study concludes with suggestions for improvements in the outdoor system that would allow up-scaling of this biomass production technology for outdoor conditions in the Mediterranean. © 2012 Elsevier Ltd.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)324-335
JournalBiomass and Bioenergy
Volume39
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2012

Keywords

  • Alexandrium minutum
  • Energy balance
  • Heterosigma akashiwo
  • Karlodinium veneficum
  • Life cycle assessment
  • Pilot plant photobioreactor

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