Greenhouse Gas Balance and Algae-Based Biodiesel

  • Anne Flesch
  • Tom Beer
  • Peter K. Campbell
  • David Batten
  • Tim Grant
Part of the Developments in Applied Phycology book series (DAPH, volume 5)


This chapter discusses the use of life cycle assessment (LCA) in relation to algal biofuels by first of all describing life cycle assessment (LCA) as a process that considers the whole process chain from biomass production to the biodiesel combustion. The chapter continues with an example in which the methods of life cycle assessment are used to analyse the potential greenhouse gas emissions and energy balance of biodiesel production from microalgae. The design chosen in this study focuses on commercial scale, plastic-bag reactors and the biofixation of CO2 from a nearby power station to assist in the growth of the algae. Eight different scenarios involving photobioreactors are examined that involve two methods for harvesting the algae (mechanical harvesting and chemical harvesting by flocculant); two methods for oil extraction (solvent extraction and high pressure extraction), and also two end-uses for the algal cake that remains after oil extraction (animal feed and production of energy through methane combustion after anaerobic digestion). The scenario results are compared with previous scenarios of biodiesel from microalgae grown in ponds, and also with diesel and canola biodiesel production.


Life Cycle Assessment Anaerobic Digestion Carbon Credit High Pressure Extraction Alga Farm 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



Australian dollars, average value across the 2008–2009 financial year.


Cumulative Energy Demand – method used in life cycle analysis to calculate the total (primary, HHV) energy used.


Methane – a greenhouse gas released naturally during the anaerobic breakdown of organic material, especially in wet environments.


Carbon Dioxide – the primary greenhouse gas.


Carbon Dioxide equivalent units. Indicates the amount of global warming that would result from the introduction of a certain mass of carbon dioxide over a 100 year timescale. Also see GWP.


The Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation.


Greenhouse Gas – a gas which when released to the atmosphere is believed to contribute to global warming and climate change.


Global Warming Potential. A measure of how much a given mass of greenhouse gas contributes to global warming, relative to CO2 (which is by definition 1). Kyoto Protocol values are used in this chapter, i.e. 21 for methane and 310 for nitrous oxide.


hectare.annum – an area of land used for a given purpose over a certain number of years. For example, 10 ha.a could indicate the occupation of 10 ha of land over 1 year, 5 ha over 2 years, etc.


Higher Heating Value – the amount of energy released during fuel combustion once the products have returned to a temperature of 25 °C. This takes into account the latent heat of vaporisation of water.


Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.


James Cook University – a public university based in Townsville, Queensland, in Australia.


Life Cycle Assessment – a study of the total impacts from ‘cradle to grave’ resulting from the supply of a given product or service.


Lower Heating Value – as with HHV, but the cooling process is stopped at a temperature of 150 °C, meaning the heat embodied in water vapour is lost. This is typically the case in vehicles, where the water vapour is lost to the atmosphere via the tailpipe.


Nitrous Oxide – a greenhouse gas emitted from the breakdown of animal dung and urine in soil, as well as nitrogen fertilisers in wet environments.


Photobioreactor – a device for growing plants or organisms (especially algae) that admits light, but otherwise operates with a system closed to the environment (no direct exchange of gases or water, generally).


Solar Environmental Tube System – sausage-shaped plastic PBRs used by Victorian company in one of the scenarios examined.

Tonne-Kilometre – a unit to measure the quantity of freight transportation. For example, 20 tkm could indicate 20 t of freight transported 1 km, 10 t transported 2 km, etc.


Ultra Low Sulfur – fuel (generally diesel, ULSD) containing under 50 ppm sulfur.


Wildly optimistic scenario – a scenario where every variable results in the best result possible (in this case, resulting in maximal algal growth).


Extra Low Sulfur – fuel (generally diesel, XLSD) containing under 10 ppm sulphur. In Australia legislation requires diesel fuel to be XLS from 1 January 2009.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anne Flesch
    • 1
  • Tom Beer
    • 2
  • Peter K. Campbell
    • 3
  • David Batten
    • 4
  • Tim Grant
    • 5
  1. 1.Veolia EnvironnementParisFrance
  2. 2.Transport Biofuels StreamCSIRO Energy Transformed FlagshipAspendaleAustralia
  3. 3.Information Technology ResourcesUniversity of TasmaniaHobartAustralia
  4. 4.Low Cost Algal FuelsCSIRO Energy Transformed FlagshipAspendaleAustralia
  5. 5.Life Cycle StrategiesMelbourneAustralia

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