Effects of co-products on the life-cycle impacts of microalgal biodiesel

Kullapa Soratana, William J. Barr, Amy E. Landis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Microalgal biodiesel production has been investigated for decades, yet it is not commercially available. Part of the problem is that the production process is energy and chemical intensive due, in part, to the high portion of microalgal biomass left as residues. This study investigated cradle-to-gate life-cycle environmental impacts from six different scenarios of microalgal biodiesel and its co-products. Ozone depletion, global warming, photochemical smog formation, acidification and eutrophication potentials were assessed using the Tool for the Reduction and Assessment of Chemical and other environmental Impacts (TRACI). Monte Carlo Analysis was conducted to investigate the processes with major contribution in each impact category. The market opportunity for each co-product was examined based on supply, demand and prices of the products that could potentially be substituted by the co-products. The results indicated that the scenario with the least life-cycle environmental impacts in all the five impact categories with the highest net energy ratio was the scenario utilizing a multitude of co-products including bioethanol from lipid-extracted microalgae (LEA), biomethane (to produce electricity and heat) from simultaneous saccharification-fermentation (SSF) residues, land-applied material from SSF residue anaerobic digestion (AD) solid digestate, recycling nutrients from SSF residue AD liquid digestate and CO2 recovered from SSF process contributed. Decreasing the energy consumption of the centrifuge in the land-applied material production process and increasing the lipid content of microalgae can reduce environmental footprints of the co-products. The same scenario also had the highest total income indicating their potential as co-products in the market.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)157-166
Number of pages10
JournalBioresource Technology
StatePublished - May 2014


  • Algae biodiesel prices
  • Anaerobic digestion
  • Life cycle assessment
  • Lipid extracted algae

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Bioengineering
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Waste Management and Disposal


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