Crop Biotech Update

Study Shows the Potential of Algae Fractionation in Lowering Greenhouse Gas Levels

November 3, 2016

A new study from Argonne National Laboratory has shown the potential of an algae fractionation process to produce biodiesel with 63–68 percent lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions than common diesel.

In algal biofuel production, lipids are extracted from algae and converted to renewable diesel, while the non-lipid components are converted to biogas. This biogas is then used for renewable heat and electricity to power the conversion process.

However, in the algae fractionation process, the carbohydrates in the non-lipid components are converted to ethanol instead of biogas, thus producing two fuels, renewable diesel and ethanol. The increased biofuel outputs can lower the cost of the biofuels from algae. However, without the biogas, the algae fractionation requires more energy.

Scientists then used life-cycle analysis to analyze if the energy required for the process would still result in lower GHG emissions. The results were positive, showing lower GHG emissions from algae fractionation compared to the use of conventional petroleum diesel.