Technical Report 126, c4e-Preprint Series, Cambridge

Algae under Uncertainty: The Future of the Algal Biodiesel Economy

ref: Technical Report 126, c4e-Preprint Series, Cambridge

Associated Theme: Engines


We present a techno-economic assessment of algae-derived biodiesel under economic and technical uncertainties currently associated with the development of algal biorefineries. The proposed plant is comprised of photobioreactor (PBR), harvesting and oil extraction, oil esterification, and integrated gasification/Fischer-Tropsch units, and a concentrated solar power (CSP) system to provide the biorefinery with decarbonised electricity. The global sensitivity analysis was performed using a High Dimensional Model Representation (HDMR) method. It was found that, considering reasonable ranges over which each parameter can vary, the sensitivity of the biodiesel production cost to the key input parameters decreases in the following order: algae oil content > algae annual productivity per unit area > plant production capacity > carbon price increase rate. It was also found that the Return on Investment (ROI) is highly sensitive to the algae oil content, and to a lesser extent to the algae annual productivity, crude oil price and price increase rate, plant production capacity, and carbon price increase rate. For a large scale plant (100,000 tonnes of biodiesel per year) the production cost of biodiesel is likely to be between £0.8 to £1.6 per kg. The analysis herein presented should be of interests to researchers and decision makers in the energy, environment and agricultural sectors.

Material from this preprint has been published in: Bioresource Technology (BITE) 151, 166-173, (2014)


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