Algal biofuels are becoming more economically competitive due to technological advances and government subsidies offering tax benefits and lower cost financing. These factors are linked, however, as the value of technical advances is affected by modeling assumptions regarding the growth conditions, process design, and financing of the production facility into which novel techniques are incorporated. Two such techniques, related to algal growth and dewatering, are evaluated in representative operating and financing scenarios using an integrated techno-economic model. Results suggest that these techniques can be valuable under specified conditions, but also that investment subsidies influence cost competitive facility design by incentivizing development of more capital intensive facilities (e.g., favoring hydrothermal liquefaction over transesterification-based facilities). Evaluating novel techniques under a variety of operational and financial scenarios highlights the set of site-specific conditions in which technical advances are most valuable, while also demonstrating the influence of subsidies linked to capital intensity.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work has benefitted greatly from close collaborations with researchers in the Center for Biofilms Engineering at Montana State University and the Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering at The University of Toledo. The authors gratefully acknowledge the research facilitation and feedback provided by Dr. Robin Gerlach, Dr. Brent Peyton, Dr. Matthew Fields, Dr. Al Cunningham, and their respective research groups at MSU. The researchers would like to thank the DOE ( DE-EE0005993 / 000 ) and NSF ( SEP-1230710, 1230632 , and 1230609 ) for their financial support of this research.
- Life cycle analysis
- Techno-economic analysis