Algae-Based Beneficial Re-use of Carbon Emissions Using a Novel Photobioreactor: a Techno-Economic and Life Cycle Analysis

Michael H. Wilson, Aubrey Shea, John Groppo, Czarena Crofcheck, David Quiroz, Jason C. Quinn, Mark Crocker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Despite the many advantages of microalgae, the feasibility of large-scale cultivation requires significant amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) to enable high growth rates. A synergistic union typically proposed for the supply of CO2 is the coupling of algal cultivation with emissions from power plants. This study investigates the sustainability of a novel microalgae platform coupled with coal-based flue gas. The proposed system consists of a novel photobioreactor (PBR) for the production of biomass followed by a two-stage dewatering process. A systems model, which quantifies the CO2 and energy consumption of the proposed system, was developed, and the minimum biomass selling price (MBSP) was determined by a techno-economic analysis (TEA). TEA results indicate that a facility with the capacity to capture 30% of the emissions from a 1-MW power plant requires a biomass production of 1280 metric ton per year, which when scaled to a nth of kind facility can produce biomass at a MBSP of $2322 per ton. The environmental impact of the proposed facility was determined by a life cycle assessment methodology, and results indicate a carbon capture potential of 1.16 × 104 metric tons of CO2 equivalent. In addition, an energy analysis indicates a desirable net energy ratio of 0.1, which is lower than conventional PBRs. Discussion focuses on the requirements to reduce biomass production cost, including research investment areas for increasing productivity while decreasing energy requirements.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)292-302
Number of pages11
JournalBioenergy Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding was provided by the Kentucky Department of Energy Development and Independence, the US Department of Energy (DOE) (award no. DE-FE0029623) and the US-China Clean Energy Research Center–Advanced Coal Technology Consortium (DE-PI0000017). Acknowledgments

Funding Information:
This report was prepared as an account of work sponsored by an agency of the US government. Neither the US government nor any agency thereof, nor any of their employees, makes any warranty, express or implied, or assumes any legal liability or responsibility for the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of any information, apparatus, product, or process disclosed, or represents that its use would not infringe privately owned rights. Reference herein to any specific commercial product, process, or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer, or otherwise does not necessarily constitute or imply its endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by the US government or any agency thereof. The views and opinions of authors expressed herein do not necessarily state or reflect those of the US government or any agency thereof.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020, Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature.


  • Bioplastic
  • Carbon dioxide
  • Cost
  • Culture
  • Microalgae

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Energy (miscellaneous)


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