BioEnergy Research

, Volume 5, Issue 1, pp 49–60

Current Large-Scale US Biofuel Potential from Microalgae Cultivated in Photobioreactors

Authors

    • Mechanical EngineeringColorado State University
  • Kimberly Catton
    • Civil and Environmental EngineeringColorado State University
  • Nicholas Wagner
    • Mechanical EngineeringColorado State University
  • Thomas H. Bradley
    • Mechanical EngineeringColorado State University
Article

DOI: 10.1007/s12155-011-9165-z

Cite this article as:
Quinn, J.C., Catton, K., Wagner, N. et al. Bioenerg. Res. (2012) 5: 49. doi:10.1007/s12155-011-9165-z

Abstract

Current assessments of the commercial viability and productivity potential of microalgae biofuels have been forced to extrapolate small-scale research data. The resulting analyses are not representative of microalgae cultivation and processing at industrial scale. To more accurately assess the current near-term realizable, large-scale microalgae productivity potential in the USA, this paper presents a model of microalgae growth derived from industrial-scale outdoor photobioreactor growth data. This model is combined with thermal models of the photobioreactor system and 15 years of hourly historical weather data from 864 locations in the USA to more accurately assess the current productivity potential of microalgae. The resulting lipid productivity potential of Nannochloropsis is presented in the form of a map that incorporates various land availability models to illustrate the near-term feasible cultivation locations and corresponding productivity potentials for the USA. The discussion focuses on a comparison of model results with productivity potentials currently reported in literature, an assessment demonstrating the scale of Department of Energy 2030 alternative fuel goals, and a critical comparison of productivity potential in several key regions of the USA.

Keywords

BiofuelsGISMicroalgaeModelProductivity potential

Abbreviations

PAR

Photosynthetic active radiation

PFD

Photon flux density

GIS

Geographic information system

PBR

Photobioreactor

ORP

Open raceway pond

DOE

Department of Energy

NLCD

National Land Cover Database

Nomenclature

cp

Specific heat of water (kJ kg−1 K−1)

Ea

Activation energy carboxylation Rubisco (J mol−1)

Gbottom

Solar energy reaching the bottom (W m−2)

Gn

Solar energy reaching node n (W m−2)

Gsur

Solar energy reaching the surface (W m−2)

hi

Convection coefficient (W m−2 K−1)

hr

Net radiation coefficient with the sky (W m−2 K−1)

k

Thermal conductivity of water (W m−1 K−1)

Ln

Distance between nodes (m)

mn

Total mass represented by node n (kg)

Qi

Energy stored/released by ground (W m−2)

R

Universal gas constant (J K−1 mol−1)

T1

Temperature at node 1 (K)

Tambient

Temperature of the ambient (K)

Tn

Temperature at node n (K)

Tn − 1

Temperature at node n minus 1 (K)

Tn + 1

Temperature at node n plus 1 (K)

Topt

Optimum microaglae growth temperature (K)

Tsky

Temperature of the sky (K)

Tsur

Temperature at the surface (K)

T

Temperature of microalgae culture (K)

t

Time (s)

φT

Temperature efficiency factor

Supplementary material

12155_2011_9165_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (1.1 mb)
ESM 1(PDF 1.14 mb)

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC. 2011