Comparative Cost Analysis of Algal Oil Production for Biofuels

Amy Sun, Ryan Davis, Meghan Starbuck, Ami Ben-Amotz, Ron Pate, Philip T. Pienkos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

188 Scopus Citations


Economic analysis is an essential evaluation for considering feasibility and viability of large-scale, photoautotrophic algae-based, biofuel production. Thus far, economic analysis has been conducted on a scenario-by-scenario basis which does not allow for cross-comparisons. In 2008, a comparative study was carried out using a cross-section of cost analyses consisting of 12 public studies. The resulting triacylglyceride cost had a spread of two orders of magnitude excluding two studies which were intended for specialty chemicals. The cost spread can be largely attributed to disparate assumptions and uncertainties in economic and process inputs. To address this disparity, four partners from research, academia, and industry collaborated on a harmonization study to estimate algal oil production costs based on a common framework. The updated cost comparison based on a normalized set of input assumptions was found to greatly reduce economic variability, resulting in algal oil production costs ranging from $10.87 gallon-1 to $13.32 gallon-1.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)5169-5179
Number of pages11
Issue number8
StatePublished - 2011

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5100-52063


  • Algae
  • Autotrophic
  • Economics
  • Scale-up biofuel production
  • Triacylglyceride


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