Pretreatment of Algae for the Production of Fuels and Chemical Coproducts

Jacob Kruger, Skylar Schutter, Tao Dong, Eric Knoshaug, Bonnie Panczak, Hannah Alt, Alicia Sowell, Kyoko Hirayama, Anuj Thakkar, Sandeep Kumar, Philip Pienkos

Research output: NRELPresentation


Algal biomass is a promising resource for producing renewable fuels and chemicals, but despite decades of research, algal biorefining remains in a pre-commercial state. Recent economic analyses have indicated that high-value co-products are necessary to offset the cost of fuel production, implying the need for algae fractionation technology. One promising fractionation approach is Combined Algal Processing (CAP), which pretreats and extracts algal biomass to produce a fermentable aqueous hydrolysate, an organic lipid fraction, and a residual solids fraction. The CAP approach has historically employed a dilute acid pretreatment to lyse cells and solubilize algal carbohydrates for fermentation of the hydrolysate phase, but we recently identified alternative pretreatments with the potential to decrease costs and environmental impacts, including different implementations of dilute acid pretreatment, dilute alkali pretreatment, enzymatic pretreatment, and flash hydrolysis. We conducted a screening of six different pretreatment approaches across nine algae strains of varying composition, and measured pretreatment effectiveness as a combination of carbon and nitrogen solubilization, lipid extraction yield, and lipid speciation. In this screening, we found traditional dilute acid pretreatment to provide the most robust pretreatment performance, though other pretreatments were competitive, and some performed better for certain strains of algae. These results highlight the interplay between algae composition and pretreatment effectiveness.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages24
StatePublished - 2022

Publication series

NamePresented at the Symposium on Biomaterials, Fuels and Chemicals (SBFC), 1-4 May 2022, New Orleans, Louisiana

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/PR-2800-82822


  • algae
  • biomass
  • chemicals
  • fuels
  • pretreatment


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