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Energy input, carbon intensity and cost for ethanol produced from farmed seaweed


  • Philippsen, Aaron
  • Wild, Peter
  • Rowe, Andrew


Macroalgae, commonly known as seaweed, has received significant interest as a potential source of ethanol because of its fast growth, significant sugar content and successful lab-scale conversion to ethanol. Issues such as energy input in seaweed conversion, lifecycle emissions, global production potential and cost have received limited attention. To address this gap, a well-to-tank model of ethanol production from brown seaweed is developed and applied to the case of ethanol production from Saccharina latissima in British Columbia, Canada. Animal feed is proposed as a co-product and co-product credits are estimated. In the case considered, seaweed ethanol is found to have an energy return on invested (EROI) of 1.7 and a carbon intensity (CI) of 10.8gCO2eMJ−1. Ethanol production from conventionally farmed seaweed could cost less than conventional ethanol and be produced on a scale comparable to 1% of global gasoline production. A drying system is required in regions such as British Columbia that require seasonal seaweed storage due to a limited harvest season. The results are significantly influenced by variations in animal feed processing energy, co-product credit value, seaweed composition, the value of seaweed animal feed and the cost of seaweed farming. We find EROI ranges from 0.64 to 26.7, CI from 33 to −41gCO2eMJ−1 and ethanol production is not financially viable without animal feed production in some scenarios.

Suggested Citation

  • Philippsen, Aaron & Wild, Peter & Rowe, Andrew, 2014. "Energy input, carbon intensity and cost for ethanol produced from farmed seaweed," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 38(C), pages 609-623.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:rensus:v:38:y:2014:i:c:p:609-623
    DOI: 10.1016/j.rser.2014.06.010

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Goh, Chun Sheng & Lee, Keat Teong, 2010. "A visionary and conceptual macroalgae-based third-generation bioethanol (TGB) biorefinery in Sabah, Malaysia as an underlay for renewable and sustainable development," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 14(2), pages 842-848, February.
    2. Borines, M.G. & de Leon, R.L. & McHenry, M.P., 2011. "Bioethanol production from farming non-food macroalgae in Pacific island nations: Chemical constituents, bioethanol yields, and prospective species in the Philippines," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 15(9), pages 4432-4435.
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    Cited by:

    1. Song, Minkyung & Duc Pham, Hong & Seon, Jiyun & Chul Woo, Hee, 2015. "Marine brown algae: A conundrum answer for sustainable biofuels production," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 50(C), pages 782-792.

    More about this item


    Seaweed; Macroalgae; Ethanol; Carbon intensity; EROI; Cost;


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