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Photosynthesis Research

, Volume 109, Issue 1–3, pp 231–247 | Cite as

Integration of microalgae cultivation with industrial waste remediation for biofuel and bioenergy production: opportunities and limitations

  • Patrick J. McGinn
  • Kathryn E. Dickinson
  • Shabana Bhatti
  • Jean-Claude Frigon
  • Serge R. Guiot
  • Stephen J. B. O’Leary
Review

Abstract

There is currently a renewed interest in developing microalgae as a source of renewable energy and fuel. Microalgae hold great potential as a source of biomass for the production of energy and fungible liquid transportation fuels. However, the technologies required for large-scale cultivation, processing, and conversion of microalgal biomass to energy products are underdeveloped. Microalgae offer several advantages over traditional ‘first-generation’ biofuels crops like corn: these include superior biomass productivity, the ability to grow on poor-quality land unsuitable for agriculture, and the potential for sustainable growth by extracting macro- and micronutrients from wastewater and industrial flue-stack emissions. Integrating microalgal cultivation with municipal wastewater treatment and industrial CO2 emissions from coal-fired power plants is a potential strategy to produce large quantities of biomass, and represents an opportunity to develop, test, and optimize the necessary technologies to make microalgal biofuels more cost-effective and efficient. However, many constraints on the eventual deployment of this technology must be taken into consideration and mitigating strategies developed before large scale microalgal cultivation can become a reality. As a strategy for CO2 biomitigation from industrial point source emitters, microalgal cultivation can be limited by the availability of land, light, and other nutrients like N and P. Effective removal of N and P from municipal wastewater is limited by the processing capacity of available microalgal cultivation systems. Strategies to mitigate against the constraints are discussed.

Keywords

Microalgae biofuels Biomass Wastewater Flue gas 

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Copyright information

© Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Patrick J. McGinn
    • 1
  • Kathryn E. Dickinson
    • 1
  • Shabana Bhatti
    • 1
  • Jean-Claude Frigon
    • 2
  • Serge R. Guiot
    • 2
  • Stephen J. B. O’Leary
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute for Marine BiosciencesNational Research Council of CanadaHalifaxCanada
  2. 2.Biotechnology Research InstituteNational Research Council of CanadaMontrealCanada

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