Biodiesel derived from algae is considered as a sustainable fuel, but proper downstream processing is necessary to minimize the environmental footprint of this process. Algae is grown in dilute liquid cultures, and achieving the low water contents required for extraction represents one of the greatest challenges for the production of algae derived biodiesel. An analysis of the life cycle emissions associated with harvesting, dewatering, extraction, reaction, and product purification stages for algae biodiesel were performed. This "base case" found 10,500 kg of total emissions per t of biodiesel with 96 % of those attributed to the spray dryer used for dewatering. Alternative cases were evaluated for various sequences of mechanical and thermal dewatering techniques. The best case, consisted of a disk-stack centrifuge, followed by the chamber filter press, and a heat integrated dryer. This resulted in 875 kg emissions/t of biodiesel, a 91 % reduction from the base case. Significant reductions in life cycle emissions were achieved for all mechanical dewatering alternatives compared to the base case, but further improvements using these existing technologies were limited. Additional improvements will require the development of new techniques for water removal or wet extractions.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Environmental Engineering
- Environmental Chemistry
- Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law