Anaerobic Storage and Conversion of Microalgal Biomass to Manage Seasonal Variation in Cultivation

Lynn Wendt, Bradley Whalen, Eric Knoshaug, Nicholas Nagle, Tao Dong, Ryan Spiller, Bonnie Panczak, Stefanie Van Wychen, Thomas Dempster, Henri Gerken, Philip Pienkos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus Citations


Seasonal variation in microalgal biomass production is a well-known challenge when optimizing economics for algal fuel conversion, especially given the fluctuation in biomass production between winter and summer. Wet storage offers significant potential for cost and energy savings compared to dewatering and dry storage. This study demonstrates the feasibility of preserving harvested Scenedesmus acutus biomass through wet anaerobic storage for use in biochemical conversion. Anaerobic storage effectively preserved biomass with minimal degradation of carbohydrates and preservation of lipids and proteins. Screening experiments identified optimal pretreatment conditions for stored biomass. Scale-up of pretreatment enabled fermentation of the hydrolysate to butyric acid and indicated no observable difference in conversion between unstored and stored biomass. Lipid extraction improved by a relative 12% for stored biomass. These results suggest that wet anaerobic storage can effectively manage seasonal variation in biomass production and is compatible with biochemical approaches for biofuel production.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)13310-13317
Number of pages8
JournalACS Sustainable Chemistry and Engineering
Issue number35
StatePublished - 8 Sep 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 American Chemical Society.

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-2700-77686


  • Algal fuel conversion
  • Biofuel production
  • Microalgal biomass production
  • Wet anaerobic storage


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