Energy analysis of algae-to-biofuel production chains integrated with a combined heat and power plant

Mikko Kouhia, Henrik Holmberg, Matti Sonck, Pekka Ahtila

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This study examines the energy and mass balances of algae cultivation and different post-processing pathways. Flue gases and excess heat from a combined heat and power (CHP) plant are used in algae cultivation, with nutrients from municipal wastewater. In the studied pathways, algae are cultivated in open ponds and photobioreactors with or without artificial lighting. Algal mass is used for methane, biodiesel or ethanol production, or it is combusted in a boiler. Results show that in most process pathways energy output exceeds the energy consumption in processing, and the energy returns are approximately twice as large as the electricity input. A large fraction of input energy is low-temperature heat, while the products have a higher value. Energy outputs from different pathways are similar, but heat and electricity consumption in processing vary significantly. Supercritical water gasification pathway is identified as a possible future option, whereas lipid extraction pathways are suggested to be the most likely candidates for industrial scale operations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)281-290
Number of pages11
Issue number4
Early online date8 Nov 2018
Publication statusPublished - 4 Jul 2019
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • biofuel
  • energy balance
  • Microalgae
  • process integration

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