A review of biodiesel production from microalgae

Abstract

As the search for alternatives to fossil fuels continues, microalgae have emerged as a promising renewable feedstock for biodiesel. Many species contain high lipid concentrations and require simple cultivation—including reduced freshwater and land area needs—compared to traditional crops used for biofuels. Recently, technological advancements have brought microalgae biodiesel closer to becoming economically feasible through increased efficiency of the cultivation, harvesting, pretreatment, lipid extraction, and transesterification subsystems. The metabolism of microalgae can be favorably manipulated to increase lipid productivity through environmental stressors, and “green” techniques such as using flue gas as a carbon source and wastewater as a media replacement can lower the environmental impact of biodiesel production. Through life cycle assessment and the creation of process models, valuable insights have been made into the energy and material sinks of the manufacturing process, helping to identify methods to successfully scale up microalgae biodiesel production. Several companies are already exploring the microalgae industry, offsetting operating costs through isolation of co-products and careful unit operation selection. With numerous examples drawn from industry and the literature, this review provides a practical approach for creating a microalgae biodiesel facility.

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Abbreviations

EER:

Energy efficiency ratio

FAEE:

Fatty acid ethyl ester

FAME:

Fatty acid methyl ester

FFA:

Free fatty acids

HPH:

High-pressure homogenization

LCA:

Life cycle analysis

PEF:

Pulsed electric field

TAG:

Triacylglycerol

% wt:

Weight percentage

v/v:

Volume ratio

w/w:

Weight ratio

nm:

Nanometer

µm:

Micrometer

ml:

Mililiter

mg:

Milligram

g:

Gram

kg:

Kilogram

h:

Hour

min:

Minute

d:

Day

yr:

Year

L:

Liter

gal:

Gallon

mol:

Mole number

MPa:

Megapascal

MJ:

Megajoule

GHz:

Gigahertz

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Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank Wesley Zloza, Kyra Gudgel, Caitlin Liddiard, Brock Shilling, Victoria St. Martin, and Alex Fuerst for their assistance in image production.

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Correspondence to Serdar Ozturk.

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Dickinson, S., Mientus, M., Frey, D. et al. A review of biodiesel production from microalgae. Clean Techn Environ Policy 19, 637–668 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10098-016-1309-6

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Keywords

  • Biodiesel
  • Biofuel
  • Energy
  • Life cycle analysis
  • Microalgae
  • Sustainability