Export file:


  • RIS(for EndNote,Reference Manager,ProCite)
  • BibTex
  • Text


  • Citation Only
  • Citation and Abstract

Evaluating the potential of renewable diesel production from algae cultured on wastewater: techno-economic analysis and life cycle assessment

1 Biological and Ecological Engineering, Oregon State University, Corvallis OR 97331, USA
2 Agricultural and Biological Engineering, University of Illinois Urbana Champaign, Urbana IL 61801, USA

Topical Section: Energy and Environmental science

Algae, a renewable energy source, has an added advantage of consuming nutrients from wastewater and consequently aiding in wastewater treatment. The algae thus produced can be processed using alternative paths for conversion to fuels. However, due to high moisture content of algae, wet algae processing methods are being encouraged to avoid the dewatering cost and energy. Hydrothermal liquefaction is one such technology that converts the algae into high heating value bio-oil under high temperature and pressure. This bio-oil can be further upgraded to renewable diesel (RD) which can be used in diesel powered vehicles without any modifications. The objective of this study is to evaluate the economic viability and to estimate the energy use and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions during life cycle of RD production from algae grown in wastewater using hydrothermal liquefaction. Economic analysis of RD production on commercial scale was performed using engineering process model of RD production plant with processing capacity of 60 Mgal wastewater/day, simulated in SuperPro designer. RD yields for algae were estimated as 10.18 MML/year with unit price of production as $1.75/RD. The GHG emissions during life cycle of RD production were found to be 6.2 times less than those produced for conventional diesel. Sensitivity analysis indicated a potential to reduce ethanol production cost either by using high lipid algae or increasing the plant size. The integrated economic and ecological assessment analyses are helpful in determining long-term sustainability of a product and can be used to drive energy policies in an environmentally sustainable direction.
  Article Metrics

Keywords microalgae; hydrothermal liquefaction; renewable diesel; techno-economic analysis; life cycle assessment

Citation: Ankita Juneja, Ganti S. Murthy. Evaluating the potential of renewable diesel production from algae cultured on wastewater: techno-economic analysis and life cycle assessment. AIMS Energy, 2017, 5(2): 239-257. doi: 10.3934/energy.2017.2.239


  • 1. Ndong R, Montrejaud VM, Saint GO, et al. (2009) Life cycle assessment of biofuels from Jatropha curcas in West Africa: a field study. GCB Bioenerg 1: 197–210.    
  • 2. Chisti Y (2007) Biodiesel from microalgae. Biotechnol adv 25: 294–306.    
  • 3. Becker EW (1994) Microalgae: biotechnology and microbiology, Cambridge University Press, 10: 165.
  • 4. Adam F, Abert VM, Peltier G, et al. (2012) "Solvent-free" ultrasound-assisted extraction of lipids from fresh microalgae cells: a green, clean and scalable process. Bioresource Technol 114: 457–465.    
  • 5. Tanzi CD, Vian MA, Chemat F (2013) New procedure for extraction of algal lipids from wet biomass: a green clean and scalable process. Bioresource Technol 134: 271–275.    
  • 6. Cheng J, Yu T, Li T, et al. (2013) Using wet microalgae for direct biodiesel production via microwave irradiation. Bioresource Technol 131: 531–535.    
  • 7. Halim R, Gladman B, Danquah MK, et al. (2011) Oil extraction from microalgae for biodiesel production. Bioresource Technol 102: 178–185.    
  • 8. Zhu Y, Biddy MJ, Jones SB, et al. (2014) Techno-economic analysis of liquid fuel production from woody biomass via hydrothermal liquefaction (HTL) and upgrading. Appl Energ 129: 384–394.    
  • 9. Akhtar J, Amin NAS (2011) A review on process conditions for optimum bio-oil yield in hydrothermal liquefaction of biomass. Renew Sust Energ Rev 15: 1615–1624.    
  • 10. Brown TM, Duan P, Savage PE (2010) Hydrothermal liquefaction and gasification of Nannochloropsis sp. Energ Fuel 24: 3639–3646.
  • 11. Peterson AA, Vogel F, Lachance RP, et al. (2008) Thermochemical biofuel production in hydrothermal media: a review of sub-and supercritical water technologies. Energ Environ Sci 1: 32–65.    
  • 12. Delrue F, Li-Beisson Y, Setier PA, et al. (2013) Comparison of various microalgae liquid biofuel production pathways based on energetic, economic and environmental criteria. Bioresource Technol 136: 205–212.
  • 13. Thomas E, David WR, Timothy RG (2010) California renewable diesel multimedia evaluation, The University of California, Davis, Berkeley.
  • 14. Amer L, Adhikari B, Pellegrino J (2011) Technoeconomic analysis of five microalgae-to-biofuels processes of varying complexity. Bioresource Technol 2011: 9350–9359.
  • 15. Davis R, Aden A, Pienkos PT (2011) Techno-economic analysis of autotrophic microalgae for fuel production. Appl Energ 88: 3524–3531.    
  • 16. Ahmad F, Khan AU, Yasar A (2013) The potential of Chlorella vulgaris for wastewater treatment and biodiesel production. Pakistan J Bot 45: 461–465.
  • 17. Tebbani S, Filali R, Lopes F, et al. (2014) CO2 biofixation by Microalgae: automation process, John Wiley & Sons.
  • 18. Biller P, Ross A (2011) Potential yields and properties of oil from the hydrothermal liquefaction of microalgae with different biochemical content. Bioresource Technol 102: 215–225.    
  • 19. Wett B, Buchauer K, Fimml C (2007) In energy self-sufficiency as a feasible concept for wastewater treatment systems, IWA Leading Edge Technology Conference, Singapore, Asian Water, 21–24.
  • 20. Borowitzka M (2005) Culturing microalgae in outdoor ponds, In: algal culturing techniques, Andersen, Ed. Academic Press, NY, USA, 205–217.
  • 21. Jones S, Davis R, Zhu Y, et al. (2014) Process design and economics for the conversion of algal biomass to hydrocarbons: whole algae hydrothermal liquefaction and upgrading, Department of Energy Bioenergy Technologies Office, US.
  • 22. Lundquist TJ, Woertz IC, Quinn N, et al. (2011) A realistic technology and engineering assessment of algae biofuel production. Energ Biosci I, 1–153.
  • 23. Jonker J, Faaij A (2013) Techno-economic assessment of micro-algae as feedstock for renewable bio-energy production. Appl Energ 102: 461–475.
  • 24. Sheehan J, Dunahay T, Benemann J, et al. (1998) A look back at the US department of energy's aquatic species program: biodiesel from algae, National Renewable Energy Laboratory Golden, CO, 328.
  • 25. Ellis TG (2004) Chemistry of wastewater, Encyclopedia of Life Support System (EOLSS).
  • 26. Chen Y, Liu J, Ju YH (1998) Flotation removal of algae from water. Colloid Surface B 12: 49–55.    
  • 27. Hansel PA (2014) Efficient flocculation of microalgae for biomass production using cationic starch. Algal Res 5: 133–139.    
  • 28. Jazrawi C, Biller P, Ross AB (2013) Pilot plant testing of continuous hydrothermal liquefaction of microalgae. Algal Res 2: 268–277.    
  • 29. Jena U, Das K, Kastner J (2011) Effect of operating conditions of thermochemical liquefaction on biocrude production from Spirulina platensis. Bioresource Technol 102: 6221–6229.    
  • 30. Berglin EJ, Enderlin CW, Schmidt AJ (2012) Review and assessment of commercial vendors/options for feeding and pumping biomass slurries for hydrothermal liquefaction, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Office of Scientific & Technical Information Technical Reports.
  • 31. Garcia AL, Vos MP, Torri C, et al. (2013) Recycling nutrients in algae biorefinery. Chem Sus Chem 6: 1330–1333.    
  • 32. Faeth JL, Valdez PJ, Savage PE (2013) Fast hydrothermal liquefaction of Nannochloropsis sp. to produce biocrude. Energ Fuel 27: 1391–1398.
  • 33. Holliday RL, King JW, List GR (1997) Hydrolysis of vegetable oils in sub-and supercritical water. Ind Eng Chem Res 36: 932–935.
  • 34. Jena U, Vaidyanathan N, Chinnasamy S (2011) Evaluation of microalgae cultivation using recovered aqueous co-product from thermochemical liquefaction of algal biomass. Bioresource Technol 102: 3380–3387.    
  • 35. Elliott DC, Biller P, Ross AB (2014) Hydrothermal liquefaction of biomass: developments from batch to continuous process. Bioresource Technol 178: 147–156.
  • 36. Elliott DC, Neuenschwander GG, Hart TR (2009) Catalytic hydrothermal gasification of lignin-rich biorefinery residues and algae, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory Pnnl.
  • 37. Elliott DC (2008) Catalytic hydrothermal gasification of biomass. Biofuel Bioprod Bioref 2: 254–265.    
  • 38. Cruz FE, Oliveira JS (2008) Petroleum refinery hydrogen production unit: exergy and production cost evaluation. Int J Thermodyn 11: 187–193.
  • 39. Kim S, Dale BE (2002) Allocation procedure in ethanol production system from corn grain I system expansion. Int J Life Cy Assess 7: 237–243.    
  • 40. Juneja A, Kumar D, Murthy GS (2013) Economic feasibility and environmental life cycle assessment of ethanol production from lignocellulosic feedstock in Pacific Northwest US. J Renew Sust Energ 5: 023142.    
  • 41. Frank ED, Elgowainy A, Han J, et al. (2013) Life cycle comparison of hydrothermal liquefaction and lipid extraction pathways to renewable diesel from algae. Mitig Adapt Strat Gl 18: 137–158.    
  • 42. King J, Holliday R, List G (1999) Hydrolysis of soybean oil. in a subcritical water flow reactor. Green Chem 1: 261–264.
  • 43. Juneja A, Ceballos RM, Murthy GS (2013) Effects of environmental factors and nutrient availability on the biochemical composition of algae for biofuels production: a review. Energies 6: 4607–4638.
  • 44. Sun A, Davis R, Starbuck M, et al. (2011) Comparative cost analysis of algal oil production for biofuels. Energy 36: 5169–5179.    
  • 45. Benemann JR, Oswald WJ (1996) Systems and economic analysis of microalgae ponds for conversion of CO2 to biomass, Final report, California Univ., Berkeley, CA, Dept. of Civil Engineering.
  • 46. Xiang X (2013) Techno-economic analysis of algal lipid fuels, Dissertation, Oregon State University.
  • 47. Richardson JW, Johnson MD, Outlaw JL (2012) Economic comparison of open pond raceways to photo bio-reactors for profitable production of algae for transportation fuels in the Southwest. Algal Res 1: 93–100.    
  • 48. Palou RI, Wang MQ (2010) Updated estimation of energy efficiencies of US petroleum refineries, Argonne National Laboratory, US.
  • 49. Frank E, Han J, Palou RI, et al. (2011) Life-cycle analysis of algal lipid fuels with the greet model, Center for Transportation Research, Energy Systems Division, Argonne National Laboratory, Oak Ridge.
  • 50. Jorquera O, Kiperstok A, Sales EA (2010) Comparative energy life-cycle analyses of microalgal biomass production in open ponds and photobioreactors. Bioresource Technol 101: 1406–1413.
  • 51. Weissman JC, Goebel R (1987) Design and analysis of microalgal open pond systems for the purpose of producing fuels: a subcontract report, Solar Energy Research Inst., Golden, CO., USA.
  • 52. Xu X, Song C, Wincek R, et al. (2003) Separation of CO2 from power plant flue gas using a novel CO2 "molecular basket" adsorbent. Fuel Chem Div Prepr 48: 162–163.


Copyright Info: © 2017, Ankita Juneja, licensee AIMS Press. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Licese (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)

Download full text in PDF

Export Citation

Associated material

PubMed record



PDF downloads(971)

HTML views(2809)



Other articles by authors

[+] on Google Scholar

[+] on PubMed


Related pages

on Google Scholar

on PubMed



Download XML

Email to a friend

Order reprints

Copyright © AIMS Press All Rights Reserved