A Framework for Sustainable Design of Algal Biorefineries: Economic Aspects and Life Cycle Analysis

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In this chapter, a framework for sustainable design of algal biorefineries with respect to economic and environmental objectives is presented. As part of the framework, a superstructure is formulated to represent the design space – describing technologies developed for processing various types of algae feedstock for the production of biodiesel and co-products. Relevant data and parameters for each process such as yield, conversion, operational cost is then collected using a standardized format (a generic model) and stored in a database. The sustainable design problem is then formulated mathematically as a mixed integer nonlinear programming problem, and is solved first to identify the optimal designs with respect to economic optimality. These optimal designs are then analyzed further in terms of environmental performance using life cycle analysis. For sustainability analysis, in total five impact categories are calculated including Photochemical oxidation potential (POP), global warming potential (GWP), aquatic ecotoxicity (EcotA), Carcinogenic emissions to urban air (EUAC), and median lethal dose (LD50). To add robustness to the analysis, the framework includes uncertainty analysis using Monte Carlo simulations as well. The application of the framework is highlighted on a case study focusing on feedstock microalgae cultivated in Raceway ponds to produce biodiesel. The framework with the database and superstructure provides an enabling tool to support systematic design and analysis of future and sustainable algal biorefinery concepts.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAlgal Biorefineries : Volume 2: Products and Refinery Design
EditorsAleš Prokop , Rakesh K. Bajpai, Mark E. Zappi
Publication date2015
Pages 511-535
ISBN (Print)978-3-319-20199-3
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-319-20200-6
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • Algal biorefinery
  • Early-stage process design
  • Systematic framework
  • Process synthesis
  • Superstructure optimization
  • Generic process model
  • Economic analysis
  • Sustainability analysis
  • Uncertainty analysis
  • Monte Carlo
  • Life-cycle assessment
  • GWP

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