Biorefinery pp 679-693 | Cite as

Techno-economic Assessment of Microalgae Biorefinery as a Source of Proteins, Pigments, and Fatty acids: A Case Study for the United Arab Emirates

  • Mariam Ali AlMahri
  • Kichul JungEmail author
  • Mashael Alshehhi
  • Juan-Rodrigo Bastidas-Oyanedel
  • Jens Ejbye Schmidt


Considering the harsh climate of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and desert lands with little rain, growing biomass such as soybean or sunflower is not encouraging to provide valuable resources. In such regions, high-value products as proteins, pigments, and fatty acids can be extracted from microalgae, which can be cultivated on nonproductive lands (deserts included). In this study, we examine the potential use of microalgae as a source of biomass in the UAE. Three strains, Chlorella, Euglena, and Scenedesmus, found in the Gulf of the Arabian Sea are analyzed to identify the proper type of microalgae in creating valuable products. Chlorella shows strong resistance against high salinity and temperature, which make it a good potential source of proteins, pigments, and fatty acids for the UAE. Based on the Chlorella results, a full biorefinery is designed with the aim of producing 10 tons of proteins per day along with pigments (sodium copper chlorophylls) and saponified fatty acids (lipids). Then, an economical evaluation is conducted for the three products (proteins, pigments, and lipids) using the software SuperPro Designer. From the economical evaluation, it was identified that the three products generate revenues of 173,906,000$/year with a payback time of 2.62 years. This result suggests that the potential use of microalgae biorefinery to create revenues based on the suggested products is greatly promising in the UAE and other coastal arid/semiarid regions.


Chlorella Euglena Scenedesmus Proteins Pigments Fatty acids Biorefinery 


  1. Agrawal SC, Sarma YSRK (1982) Effects of nutrients present in Bold’s basal medium on the green alga Stigeoclonium pascheri. Folia Microbiol (Praha) 27:131–137. Scholar
  2. Andersen RA (ed) (2005) Algal culturing techniques, 1st edn. Academic, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  3. Aresta M, Dibenedetto A, Dumeignil F (eds) (2012) Biorefinery: from biomass to chemicals and fuels. [Walter] de Gruyter, BerlinGoogle Scholar
  4. Bastidas-Oyanedel JR, Fang C, Almardeai S et al (2016) Waste biorefinery in arid/semi-arid regions. Bioresour Technol 215:21–28. Scholar
  5. Becker EW (2007) Micro-algae as a source of protein. Biotechnol Adv 25:207–210. Scholar
  6. Böer B (1997) An introduction to the climate of the United Arab Emirates. J Arid Environ 35:3–16. Scholar
  7. Cherubini F (2010) The biorefinery concept: using biomass instead of oil for producing energy and chemicals. Energy Convers Manag 51:1412–1421. Scholar
  8. Dasgupta CN (2015) Algae as a source of phycocyanin and other industrially important pigments. In: Das D (ed) Algal biorefinery: an integrated approach. Springer, Berlin, pp 253–276CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Fu W, Chaiboonchoe A, Khraiwesh B et al (2016) Algal cell factories: approaches, applications, and potentials. Mar Drugs 14:1–19. Scholar
  10. Gong J, You F (2014) Global optimization for sustainable design and synthesis of algae processing network for CO2 mitigation and biofuel production using life cycle optimization. AICHE J 60:3195–3210. Scholar
  11. Gouveia L (2015) From tiny microalgae to huge biorefineries. In: Serrano-Ruiz JC (ed) New microbial technologies for advances biofuels: toward more sustainable production methods. Apple Academic Press, Ontario, pp 55–76CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Han J, Wang Y, Ma J et al (2013) Simultaneous aqueous two-phase extraction and saponification reaction of chlorophyll from silkworm excrement. Sep Purif Technol 115:51–56. Scholar
  13. Hasanean H (2013) Middle east meteorology. Int Pacific Res Cent. Accessed 19 Feb 2013
  14. Lobban CS, Chapman DJ, Kremer BP, Phycological Society of America (1988) Experimental phycology: a laboratory manual. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  15. Lundquist TJ, Woertz IC, Quinn NWT, Benemann JR (2010) A realistic technology and engineering assessment of algae biofuel production. Energy Biosciences Institute, CaliforniaGoogle Scholar
  16. Miner BD (1976) Edible soy proteins: operational aspects of production and marketing. Farmers Coop Service, US Department of Agri, FCS Res, Report 33:1–11Google Scholar
  17. Peters MS, Timmerhaus KD (1991) Plant design and economics for chemical engineers. McGraw-Hill, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  18. Phelan MC, Lawler G (2001) Cell counting. Curr Protoc Cytom Appendix 3:Appendix 3A. Scholar
  19. Piorreck M, Baasch KH, Pohl P (1984) Biomass production, total protein, chlorophylls, lipids and fatty acids of freshwater green and blue-green algae under different nitrogen regimes. Phytochemistry 23:207–216. Scholar
  20. Pulz O (2001) Photobioreactors: production systems for phototrophic microorganisms. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol 57:287–293. Scholar
  21. Safi C, Ursu AV, Laroche C et al (2014a) Aqueous extraction of proteins from microalgae: effect of different cell disruption methods. Algal Res 3:61–65. Scholar
  22. Safi C, Zebib B, Merah O et al (2014b) Morphology, composition, production, processing and applications of Chlorella vulgaris: a review. Renew Sust Energ Rev 35:265–278. Scholar
  23. Seth JR, Wangikar PP (2015) Challenges and opportunities for microalgae-mediated CO2 capture and biorefinery. Biotechnol Bioeng 112:1281–1296. Scholar
  24. Soares AT, Júnior JGM, Lopes RG et al (2016) Improvement of the extraction process for high commercial value pigments from Desmodesmus sp. microalgae. J Braz Chem Soc 27:1083–1093. Scholar
  25. Thomas DJ, Herbert SK (2005) An inexpensive apparatus for growing photosynthetic microorganisms in exotic atmospheres. Astrobiology 5:75–82. Scholar
  26. Tumolo T, Lanfer-Marquez UM (2012) Copper chlorophyllin: a food colorant with bioactive properties? Food Res Int 46:451–459. Scholar
  27. Ullah K, Ahmad MS, Sharma VK et al (2014) Algal biomass as a global source of transport fuels: overview and development perspectives. Prog Nat Sci Mater Int 24:329–339. Scholar
  28. Wall ME (1951) Preparation of chlorophyll derivatives for industrial and pharmaceutical use. US Dept of Agriculture, Bureau of Agricultural and Industrial Chemistry, 299Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mariam Ali AlMahri
    • 1
  • Kichul Jung
    • 2
    Email author
  • Mashael Alshehhi
    • 3
  • Juan-Rodrigo Bastidas-Oyanedel
    • 3
  • Jens Ejbye Schmidt
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Applied Mathematics and SciencesCollege of Science, Khalifa University of Science and TechnologyAbu DhabiUnited Arab Emirates
  2. 2.Department of Civil and Environmental EngineeringKonkuk UniversitySeoulSouth Korea
  3. 3.Chemical Engineering DepartmentKhalifa University of Science and Technology, Petroleum InstituteAbu DhabiUnited Arab Emirates
  4. 4.SDC-Department of Chemical Engineering, Biotechnology, and Environmental TechnologyUniversity of Southern DenmarkOdense MDenmark

Personalised recommendations