Algal Biomass Production via Open Pond Algae Farm Cultivation: 2021 State of Technology and Future Research

Research output: NRELTechnical Report


The annual State of Technology (SOT) assessment is an essential activity for platform research conducted under the Bioenergy Technologies Office. It allows for the impact of research progress to be quantified in terms of economic improvements in the overall biofuel production process for a particular biomass processing pathway, whether based on terrestrial or algal biomass feedstocks. As such, initial benchmarks can be established for currently demonstrated performance, and progress can be tracked towards out-year goals to ultimately demonstrate economically viable biofuel technologies. NREL's algae state of technology benchmarking efforts focus both on front-end algal biomass production and separately on back-end conversion to fuels through NREL's "combined algae processing" (CAP) pathway. The production model is based on outdoor long-term cultivation data, enabled by comprehensive algal biomass production trials conducted under Development of Integrated Screening, Cultivar Optimization, and Verification Research (DISCOVR) consortium efforts, driven by data furnished by Arizona State University (ASU) at the Arizona Center for Algae Technology and Innovation (AzCATI) testbed site. The CAP model is based on experimental efforts conducted under NREL research and development projects. This report focuses on front-end algal biomass production, documenting the pertinent algal biomass cultivation parameters that were input to the NREL open pond algae farm model based on the latest DISCOVR cultivation performance data. Relative to the fiscal year (FY) 2020 SOT at $683/ton or $603/ton for ASU and FA evaporation scenarios, respectively (unlined pond basis), the FY 2021 SOT represents a slight increase in MBSP of 1%-2%. This is primarily attributed to a slight 4% reduction in annual cultivation productivity achieved at the AzCATI site (supported by the efforts under the DISCOVR consortium noted above) observed during FY 2021 cultivation campaigns.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages32
StatePublished - 2022

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/TP-5100-82417


  • algal biomass
  • open pond algae farm cultivation
  • state of technology
  • TEA


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