Microalgal Biomass for Carbon Capture and Reuse

    Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


    The technology for growing microalgae as a renewable biomass source can be applied to the production of fuels and chemicals. Microalgae are of interest because of their high growth rates and tolerance to varying environmental conditions, and because the oils (lipids) they produce can be extracted and converted to substitute petroleum fuels. Since the primary nutrient for microalgal growth iscarbon dioxide, operation of microalgal biomass farms has emerged as a promising candidate in the search for approaches to ameliorate global change due to the accumulation of carbon dioxide. In areas where microalgal fuel farms operate in tandem with fossil fuel plants to scrub carbon dioxide from flue gases, the release of carbon dioxide could be significantly reduced. If the microalgae areused to produce fuel, either as liquid transportation or boiler fuel, a mass culture facility reduces by approximately 50% the carbon dioxide emissions from the power plant per unit energy delivered. For example, although coal is ordinarily considered to be the most polluting fossil fuel on the basis of carbon dioxide emitted per amount of energy produced, the integration of microalgal pondswith a coal-fired plant would make this fossil fuel less polluting than existing oil- and natural-gas-fired plants. Similar advantages can be achieved for oil- and gas-fired plants. The use of other carbon dioxide sources such as carbon dioxide from fuel-ethanol plants or other technologies that produce CO2 as a byproduct could provide other sources of CO2. If commodity chemicals are producedfrom algae instead of fuels, the net carbon dioxide reduction is significantly greater. Commodity chemicals can be used to produce goods with long-term uses such as building materials. Such uses would result in the sequestering of carbon dioxide for long periods. This report addresses some issues regarding resource availability with respect to microalgal production technology.


    ConferenceGlobal Climate Change: Science, Policy, and Mitigation Strategies. Air and Waste Management Association International Specialty Conference, 5-8 April 1994, Phoenix, Arizona, Policy, and Mitigation Strategies. Air and Waste Management Association International Specialty Conference
    CityPhoenix, Arizona

    NREL Publication Number

    • NREL/CP-422-6658


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