Chapter 7.1: Microalgae

Ryan Davis, Andre Coleman, Troy Hawkins, Bruno Klein, Jingyi Zhang, Yunhua Zhu, Song Gao, Udayan Singh, Longwen Ou, Matthew Wiatrowski, Lesley Snowden-Swan, Peter Valdez, Yiling Xu

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Microalgae is a unique biomass resource that does not need to compete for land and water with other biomass feedstocks because it can be cultivated on low-quality unencumbered land using noncompetitive water types including saline and wastewater. It is included as a complementary resource alongside other biomass feedstocks reported in this study, albeit at higher biomass production costs reflective of more capital-intensive farming operations than typical for terrestrial biomass. Higher biomass costs can be offset by the potential to produce value-added coproducts unique to compositional constituents of microalgae. Relative to BT16, this chapter reflects the latest analysis from the 2022 Algae Harmonization Update, which uses the latest parameterized and high-performing saline algal strain, second-generation carbon capture of point-source waste CO2 and high-pressure pipeline transport resolved to specific point-source types, saline water sourcing up to 40,000 mg/L total dissolved solids for source and makeup water salinity, blowdown water treatment and recycle, and brine disposal handling. National-scale algal biomass availability potential was calculated at 152 million tons/yr ash-free dry weight (AFDW) (191 million tons/yr dry weight) at an average biomass productivity of 26.2 g/m2 -day AFDW (about 50 tons/acre/yr dry weight).1 The algal biomass was cultivated on 3.9 million acres of multi-criteria screened and potentially available land for CONUS and fixed 268 million tons of waste CO2 based on biomass uptake. The algae biomass can be produced at an average MBSP of $674/ton AFDW ($536/ton dry weight) in 2020 dollars,2 corresponding to a total energy potential of 3.3 quads/yr at an average MBSP of $31.2/MMBtu (higher-heating-value [HHV] basis).
Original languageAmerican English
Title of host publication2023 Billion-Ton Report: An Assessment of U.S. Renewable Carbon Resources
Subtitle of host publicationORNL/SPR-2024/3103
EditorsM. H. Langholtz
StatePublished - 2024

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/CH-5100-87845


  • algae
  • resource assessment
  • techno-economic analysis


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