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Microalgal biodiesel and the Renewable Fuel Standard's greenhouse gas requirement


  • Soratana, Kullapa
  • Harper Jr., Willie F.
  • Landis, Amy E.


The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS2) under the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 requires 15.2 billion gallons of domestic alternative fuels per year by 2012, of which 2 billion gallons must be from advanced biofuel and emit 50% less life-cycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions than petroleum-based transportation fuels. Microalgal biodiesel, one type of advanced biofuel, has the qualities and potential to meet the RFS's requirement. A comparative life cycle assessment (LCA) of four microalgal biodiesel production conditions was investigated using a process LCA model with Monte Carlo simulation to assess global warming potential (GWP), eutrophication, ozone depletion and ecotoxicity potentials. The four conditions represent minimum and maximum production efficiencies and different sources of carbon dioxide and nutrient resources, i.e. synthetic and waste resources. The GWP results of the four CO2 microalgal biodiesel production conditions showed that none of the assumed production conditions meet the RFS's GHG requirement. The GWP results are sensitive to energy consumption in harvesting process. Other impacts such as eutrophication, ozone depletion and ecotoxicity potentials, are sensitive to percent lipid content of microalgae, service lifetime of PBRs and quantity of hexane in extraction process, respectively. Net energy ratio and other emissions should be included in future RFS for a more sustainable fuel.

Suggested Citation

  • Soratana, Kullapa & Harper Jr., Willie F. & Landis, Amy E., 2012. "Microalgal biodiesel and the Renewable Fuel Standard's greenhouse gas requirement," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 46(C), pages 498-510.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:enepol:v:46:y:2012:i:c:p:498-510
    DOI: 10.1016/j.enpol.2012.04.016

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Shaw, Daigee & Hung, Ming-Feng & Lin, Yi-Hao, 2010. "Using net energy output as the base to develop renewable energy," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 38(11), pages 7504-7507, November.
    2. Mata, Teresa M. & Martins, António A. & Caetano, Nidia. S., 2010. "Microalgae for biodiesel production and other applications: A review," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 14(1), pages 217-232, January.
    3. Huang, GuanHua & Chen, Feng & Wei, Dong & Zhang, XueWu & Chen, Gu, 2010. "Biodiesel production by microalgal biotechnology," Applied Energy, Elsevier, vol. 87(1), pages 38-46, January.
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    Cited by:

    1. Collet, Pierre & Hélias, Arnaud & Lardon, Laurent & Steyer, Jean-Philippe & Bernard, Olivier, 2015. "Recommendations for Life Cycle Assessment of algal fuels," Applied Energy, Elsevier, vol. 154(C), pages 1089-1102.
    2. Soratana, Kullapa & Khanna, Vikas & Landis, Amy E., 2013. "Re-envisioning the renewable fuel standard to minimize unintended consequences: A comparison of microalgal diesel with other biodiesels," Applied Energy, Elsevier, vol. 112(C), pages 194-204.
    3. Maity, Jyoti Prakash & Bundschuh, Jochen & Chen, Chien-Yen & Bhattacharya, Prosun, 2014. "Microalgae for third generation biofuel production, mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions and wastewater treatment: Present and future perspectives – A mini review," Energy, Elsevier, vol. 78(C), pages 104-113.
    4. Uusitalo, V. & Väisänen, S. & Havukainen, J. & Havukainen, M. & Soukka, R. & Luoranen, M., 2014. "Carbon footprint of renewable diesel from palm oil, jatropha oil and rapeseed oil," Renewable Energy, Elsevier, vol. 69(C), pages 103-113.
    5. Niblick, Briana & Landis, Amy E., 2016. "Assessing renewable energy potential on United States marginal and contaminated sites," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 60(C), pages 489-497.
    6. repec:eee:enepol:v:106:y:2017:i:c:p:32-40 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. repec:gam:jsusta:v:9:y:2017:i:5:p:857-:d:99186 is not listed on IDEAS


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