Life cycle assessment of algal biofuels Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/44558h11m

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  • This thesis consists of three studies to better understand the environmental sustainability potential for algal-based biofuels. Initially, a comparison of recent life cycle assessments (LCA) of theoretical full-scale algal biofuel facilities was developed. These studies include varying boundaries and scope, functional units, and technology maturity assumptions. The comparison converted results from the published studies into comparable metrics, to show uniform functional units, for comparison. Some of the major parameters that drive differences in environmental impact predictions include pond vs. photobioreactor, water and nutrient recycle, algae growth rate and lipid content. Next, a (LCA) was performed to evaluate the environmental impacts associated with the production of glucosamine and lipids in a full scale algal biorefinery. Six environmental impact categories were investigated including global warming potential (GWP), energy returned on invested (EROI), fresh water eutrophication, marine eutrophication, water depletion, and particulate matter formation. To develop the process inventory associated with the facility, a spreadsheet-based techno-economic analysis was modified, and reformatted into a Matlab-based model to improve the user-interface. A thorough breakdown of impacts for each section of the process and sensitivity analysis for each impact category was developed. The analysis indicated that the dominating contributor for emissions was the construction of the photobioreactor (PBR) systems. Alternative reactor materials, design and construction are proposed to improve sustainability. Finally, a study was initiated to improve understanding of anaerobic digestion of algal biomass wastes. For this study, algal bioreactors were constructed and C. vulgaris was cultivated in order to supply collaborators with algae biomass for anaerobic digestion studies.
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