Multicriteria-Based Selection of Microalgae Biorefineries: Biomass Composition Defines the Most Suitable Product Portfolios

Bruno Klein, Mateus Chagas, Ryan Davis, Marcos Watanabe, Matthew Wiatrowski, Edvaldo Morais, Lieve Laurens

Research output: NRELPresentation


The supply of microalgae-derived biofuels and bioproducts will be vital in a global-scale bioeconomy. As the diversity of microalgae strains and their compositional plasticity may yield a wide array of products of market interest, the design of effective biorefineries is a central aspect in the path to making microalgae-based products available in the market. In this way, the conversion of microalgae biomass should be planned to employ mature technologies, while maximizing economic and environmental benefits obtained from a diverse product portfolio. This study applied sequential, hybrid Multicriteria Decision Analyses (MCDA) to aid the decision-making process of outlining the most suitable biorefining pathways for specific compositional profiles. For this, the methodology simultaneously considered multiple technical, economic, and environmental criteria, such as market aspects for the main algae-derived products, potential reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions provided by the biobased alternatives, and technology readiness level of conversion routes, among others. The framework was tested using productivity and compositional data for 13 high-productivity summer strains cultivated under varying nutrient availability. The analysis pointed to compositional profile being a key driver in defining the core biorefining strategy of algae biomass, with lipid-to-carbohydrate ratios higher than roughly 1 warranting the preferential processing of lipids into hydrocarbon fuels with the remainder of the algae biomass compounds being sent to higher-value applications, such as carboxylic acids and renewable thermoplastic substitutes. An in-depth process simulation, techno-economic assessment (TEA), and life-cycle analysis (LCA) effort was carried out as a closing step to corroborate the results stemming from the proposed framework. This study validates the use of MCDAs as a screening method prior to implementing more time-consuming analysis techniques and makes a compelling case for this approach as a product selection tool on a wide range of algae species, thus helping establish species-agnostic (but composition-driven) biorefineries.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages18
StatePublished - 2024

Publication series

NamePresented at the International Conference on Algal Biomass, Biofuels and Bioproducts (AlgalBBB 2024), 10-12 June 2024, Clearwater Beach, Florida

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/PR-5100-90239


  • biofuels
  • bioproducts
  • biorefinery
  • life-cycle analysis
  • microalgae
  • multicriteria decision assessment
  • techno-economic assessment


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