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Cost Structures And Life Cycle Impacts Of Algal Biomass And Biofuel Production

Katrina L. Christiansen
Published 2011 · Engineering

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Development and extraction of energy sources, energy production and energy use have huge economic, environmental and geopolitical impacts. Increasing energy demands in tandem with reductions in fossil fuel production has led to significant investments in research into alternative forms of energy. One that is promising but yet not commercially established is the production of biofuel from algae. This research quantitatively assessed the potential of algae biofuel production by examining its cost and environmental impacts. First, two models developed by the RAND corporation were employed to assess Cost Growth defined as the ratio of actual costs to estimated costs, and Plant Performance defined as the ratio of actual production levels to design performance, of three algal biofuel production technologies. The three algal biofuel production technologies examined to open raceway ponds (ORPs), photobioreactors (PBRs), and a system that couples PBRs to ORPs (PBR-ORPs). Though these analyses lack precision due to uncertainty, the results highlight the risks associated with implementing algal biofuel systems, as all scenarios examined were predicted to have Cost Growth, ranging from 1.2 to 1.8, and Plant Performance was projected as less than 50% of design performance for all cases. Second, the Framework the Evaluation of Biomass Energy Feedstocks (FEBEF) was used to assess the cost and environmental impacts of biodiesel produced from three algal production technologies. When these results were compared with ethanol from corn and biodiesel from soybeans, biodiesel from algae
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