The production of microalgae as a fatty acid oil resource for use in biofuels production is a widespread research topic at the lab scale. Microalgae contain a higher lipid content on a dry-weight basis compared to oilseeds such as soybeans. Additionally, the growth and cultivation cycle of microalgae is 15 days, in comparison to soybeans, for which the cycle occurs once or twice annually. However, to date, it has been uneconomical to produce microalgae oils in a world-scale facility due to limitations in cultivating microalgae at commercial scales. Recent developments suggest that the use of heterotrophic microalgae may be economically feasible for large-scale oil production. To assess this feasibility, a comparative scoping study was performed analysing the feasibility of an industrial-scale process plant for the growth and extraction of oil from microalgae. Processes were developed at the preliminary design level using heterotrophic subspecies and autotrophic subspecies of Chlorella vulgaris. AACE Class 4 cost estimates and economic analyses were performed. This study concludes that processes based on heterotrophic microalgae are more likely to reach economic feasibility than processes using autotrophic microalgae. However, a few barriers still remain to achieving free-market economic viability.
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Jasmine Kreft, Eric Moe, Nicholas Garcia, et al.. "Comparative scoping study report for the extraction of microalgae oils from two subspecies of Chlorella vulgaris" (2020). Chemistry Faculty Publications. 25.