Algal Biomass for Biofuels and Bioproducts: Overview of Boundary Conditions and Regulatory Landscape to Define Future Algal Biorefineries

Lieve M.L. Laurens, Emilie F. Slaby, Gina M. Clapper, Steve Howell, Don Scott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus Citations


As algal biofuels and bioproducts move from research to commercial-scale production, the demand for rigorous experimentation and validation to determine the requisite data and sustainability metrics on biomass products increases. To establish long-term cultivation and biorefinery operational trials, projects need to harmonize the requirements of techno-economic and life cycle analysis models with standardized data inputs. We propose a set of descriptive metrics and methodologies that uniformly characterize these operations. Through harmonization and use of a common language the algae industry can eliminate confusion and accelerate its growth. By identifying the sources and characteristics of the inputs, and the intended fates and characteristics of the outputs, we allow for upstream and downstream life cycle environmental and techno-economic analyses. Furthermore, with knowledge and quantification of the inputs and outputs, we can understand the value flow of an algae biorefinery operation. Data on the upstream source of inputs and downstream fate of outputs add further information on the sustainability and environmental footprint of an operation. As the size of an algae facility increases, so does the importance of having a comprehensive understanding of its operational footprint. Two of the critical elements of a successful biorefinery installation are the establishment of a common basis for measuring growth, productivity and sustainability of the major algal components; and navigation of the correct regulatory network and compliance with state and federal requirements for marketing biobased fuels and products. We will review the current state of measurements in the areas of algae-based fuels and products, shedding light on consistencies and inconsistencies, and providing a future pathway toward standardization.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)221-228
Number of pages8
JournalIndustrial Biotechnology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015, Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5100-64564


  • algal biomass
  • biofuels
  • bioproducts
  • biorefineries
  • boundary conditions


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