We present the results from sustained tonne-quantity production of two novel strains of marine microalgae, the diatom Staurosira and the chlorophyte Desmodesmus, cultivated in a hybrid system of 25-m3 photobioreactors and 400-m2 open ponds at a large-scale demonstration facility, and then apply those results to evaluate the performance of a 100-ha Base Case commercial facility assuming it were built today. Nitrogen fertilization of 2-d batch cultures in open ponds led to the greatest yields – from both species – of ~ 75 MT ha− 1 yr− 1 biomass, and ~ 30 MT ha− 1 yr− 1 lipid, which are unprecedented in large scale open pond systems. The process described here uses only seawater, discharges no nitrogen or phosphorus in any form, and consumes CO2 at 78% efficiency. We estimate the capital cost of a 111-ha Base Case facility at $67 million in Hawaii, where actual production was performed, and $59 million on the Gulf Coast of Texas. We find that large-diameter, large-volume PBRs are an economical means to maintain a continuous supply of consistent inoculum for very short-period batch cultures in open ponds, and thus avoid biological system crashes that otherwise arise in longer-term pond cultures. We recommend certain improvements in cultivation methods that could realistically lead to yields of 100 MT ha− 1 yr− 1 biomass and > 50,000 L ha− 1 yr− 1 algal oil. Comprehensive techno-economics and life cycle assessment of 20 end-to-end production lineups, based on the cultivation results in this paper, are presented in a companion paper by Beal et al. .
Huntley ME, Johnson ZI, Brown SL, Sills DL, Gerber L, Archibald I, Machesky SC, Granados J, Beal C & Greene CH 2015. Demonstrated large-scale production of marine microalgae for fuels and feed. Algal Research. DOI: 10.1016/j.algal.2015.04.016