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Title: A perspective on renewable bioenergy from photosynthetic algae as feedstock for biofuels and bioproducts

Abstract

There has been substantial technical progress in developing algae-based bioenergy in recent years and a large part of industry and academic research and deployment projects have pivoted away from a pure biofuels strategy. This letter summarizes the findings of a recently completed, comprehensive report, that represents a collaborative effort of at least 20 co-authors, where we analyzed the prospects for using microalgae and macroalgae as feedstocks for biofuels and bioenergy production. The scope of this report includes a discussion of international activities advancing bioenergy and non-energy bioproducts from algae, progress on the use of macroalgae (both cast and cultivated seaweeds) for biogas applications, distinct biochemical and thermochemical conversion pathways, multi-product biorefining opportunities, as well as a thorough review of process economics and sustainability considerations. It is envisioned that a higher value algal biomass-based bioproducts industry will provide the additional revenue needed to reduce the net cost of producing algae-based biofuels. As such, a biorefinery approach that generates multiple high-value products from algae will be essential to fully valorize algal biomass and enable economically viable coproduction of bioenergy. Furthermore, to accelerate the implementation of algae-based production, minimizing energy, water, nutrients and land use footprints of integrated algae-based operations needs to bemore » a primary objective of larger scale demonstrations and future research and development.« less

Authors:
 [1];  [1];  [1]
  1. National Renewable Energy Lab. (NREL), Golden, CO (United States)
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
National Renewable Energy Lab. (NREL), Golden, CO (United States)
Sponsoring Org.:
USDOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE)
OSTI Identifier:
1358333
Report Number(s):
NREL/JA-5100-68539
Journal ID: ISSN 2211-9264
Grant/Contract Number:
AC36-08GO28308
Resource Type:
Journal Article: Accepted Manuscript
Journal Name:
Algal Research
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Volume: 24; Journal Issue: PA; Journal ID: ISSN 2211-9264
Publisher:
Elsevier
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
09 BIOMASS FUELS; algae; biomass; conversion; biofuels; bioproducts; biorefinery; sustainability

Citation Formats

Laurens, Lieve M. L., Chen-Glasser, Melodie, and McMillan, James D. A perspective on renewable bioenergy from photosynthetic algae as feedstock for biofuels and bioproducts. United States: N. p., 2017. Web. doi:10.1016/j.algal.2017.04.002.
Laurens, Lieve M. L., Chen-Glasser, Melodie, & McMillan, James D. A perspective on renewable bioenergy from photosynthetic algae as feedstock for biofuels and bioproducts. United States. doi:10.1016/j.algal.2017.04.002.
Laurens, Lieve M. L., Chen-Glasser, Melodie, and McMillan, James D. Sat . "A perspective on renewable bioenergy from photosynthetic algae as feedstock for biofuels and bioproducts". United States. doi:10.1016/j.algal.2017.04.002. https://www.osti.gov/servlets/purl/1358333.
@article{osti_1358333,
title = {A perspective on renewable bioenergy from photosynthetic algae as feedstock for biofuels and bioproducts},
author = {Laurens, Lieve M. L. and Chen-Glasser, Melodie and McMillan, James D.},
abstractNote = {There has been substantial technical progress in developing algae-based bioenergy in recent years and a large part of industry and academic research and deployment projects have pivoted away from a pure biofuels strategy. This letter summarizes the findings of a recently completed, comprehensive report, that represents a collaborative effort of at least 20 co-authors, where we analyzed the prospects for using microalgae and macroalgae as feedstocks for biofuels and bioenergy production. The scope of this report includes a discussion of international activities advancing bioenergy and non-energy bioproducts from algae, progress on the use of macroalgae (both cast and cultivated seaweeds) for biogas applications, distinct biochemical and thermochemical conversion pathways, multi-product biorefining opportunities, as well as a thorough review of process economics and sustainability considerations. It is envisioned that a higher value algal biomass-based bioproducts industry will provide the additional revenue needed to reduce the net cost of producing algae-based biofuels. As such, a biorefinery approach that generates multiple high-value products from algae will be essential to fully valorize algal biomass and enable economically viable coproduction of bioenergy. Furthermore, to accelerate the implementation of algae-based production, minimizing energy, water, nutrients and land use footprints of integrated algae-based operations needs to be a primary objective of larger scale demonstrations and future research and development.},
doi = {10.1016/j.algal.2017.04.002},
journal = {Algal Research},
number = PA,
volume = 24,
place = {United States},
year = {Sat Apr 15 00:00:00 EDT 2017},
month = {Sat Apr 15 00:00:00 EDT 2017}
}

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  • Identifying and addressing critical improvements in biomass, bioproduct and biofuel productivity is a priority for the nascent algae-based bioeconomy. Economic and sustainability principles should guide these developing improvements and help to unravel the contentious water–food–energy–environment nexus that algae inhabit. Understanding the biochemistry of the storage carbon metabolism of algae to produce biofuels and bioproducts can bring to light the key barriers that currently limit the overall carbon efficiency and the photosynthetic efficiency, and ultimately guide productivity and commercial viability in the context of limiting resources. In the analysis reported here, we present different potential pathways for a conceptual algae biorefinerymore » framework, with each pathway addressing one of the main identified barriers to future deployment. We highlight the molecular identification, in the form of an extensive literature review, of potential bioproducts that may be derived directly from both biomass and fractions produced through a conversion pathway, for three important commercially-relevant genera of algae, Scenedesmus, Chlorella and Nannochloropsis. Here, we establish a relationship between each of the potential bioproducts, describe relevant conversion and extraction processes, and discuss market opportunities with values and sizes as they relate to commercial development of the products.« less
  • In this study, rising demand for transportation fuels, diminishing reserved of fossil oil, and the concerns with fossil fuel derived environmental pollution as well as the green-house gas emission derived climate change have resulted in the compelling need for alternative, sustainable new energy sources(1). Algae-based biofuels have been considered one of the promising alternatives to fossil fuels as they can overcome some of these issues (2-4). The current state-of-art of algal biofuel technologies have primarily focused on biodiesel production through prompting high algal lipid yields under the nutrient stress conditions. There are less interests of using algae-based carbohydrate and proteinsmore » as carbon sources for the fermentative production of liquid fuel compounds or other high-value bioproducts(5-7).« less
  • Recent strategies for algae-based biofuels have primarily focused on biodiesel production by exploiting high algal lipid yields under nutrient stress conditions. However, under conditions supporting robust algal biomass accumulation, carbohydrate and proteins typically comprise up to ~80% of the ash-free dry weight of algae biomass. Therefore, comprehensive utilization of algal biomass for production of multipurpose intermediate- to high-value bio-based products will promote scale-up of algae production and processing to commodity volumes. Terpenes are hydrocarbon and hydrocarbon-like (C:O>10:1) compounds with high energy density, and are therefore potentially promising candidates for the next generation of value added bio-based chemicals and “drop-in” replacementsmore » for petroleum-based fuels. In this study, we demonstrated the feasibility of bioconversion of proteins into sesquiterpene compounds as well as comprehensive bioconversion of algal carbohydrates and proteins into biofuels. To achieve this, the mevalonate pathway was reconstructed into an E. coli chassis with six different terpene synthases (TSs). Strains containing the various TSs produced a spectrum of sesquiterpene compounds in minimal medium containing amino acids as the sole carbon source. The sesquiterpene production was optimized through three different regulation strategies using chamigrene synthase as an example. The highest total terpene titer reached 166 mg/L, and was achieved by applying a strategy to minimize mevalonate accumulation in vivo. The highest yields of total terpene were produced under reduced IPTG induction levels (0.25 mM), reduced induction temperature (25°C), and elevated substrate concentration (20 g/L amino acid mixture). A synthetic bioconversion consortium consisting of two engineering E. coli strains (DH1-TS and YH40-TS) with reconstructed terpene biosynthetic pathways was designed for comprehensive single-pot conversion of algal carbohydrates and proteins to sesquiterpenes. The consortium yielded the highest total terpene yields (187 mg/L) at an inoculum ratio 2:1 of strain YH40-TS: DH1-TS, corresponding to 31 mg fuel/g algae biomass ash free dry weight. This study therefore demonstrates a feasible process for comprehensive algal biofuel production.« less