Life-cycle analysis on biodiesel production from microalgae: Water footprint and nutrients balance

Jia Yang, Ming Xu, Xuezhi Zhang, Qiang Hu, Milton Sommerfeld, Yongsheng Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

677 Scopus citations


This research examines the life-cycle water and nutrients usage of microalgae-based biodiesel production. The influence of water types, operation with and without recycling, algal species, geographic distributions are analyzed. The results confirm the competitiveness of microalgae-based biofuels and highlight the necessity of recycling harvested water and using sea/wastewater as water source. To generate 1. kg biodiesel, 3726. kg water, 0.33. kg nitrogen, and 0.71. kg phosphate are required if freshwater used without recycling. Recycling harvest water reduces the water and nutrients usage by 84% and 55%. Using sea/wastewater decreases 90% water requirement and eliminates the need of all the nutrients except phosphate. The variation in microalgae species and geographic distribution are analyzed to reflect microalgae biofuel development in the US. The impacts of current federal and state renewable energy programs are also discussed to suggest suitable microalgae biofuel implementation pathways and identify potential bottlenecks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)159-165
Number of pages7
JournalBioresource Technology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Biodiesel
  • Life-cycle assessment
  • Microalgae
  • Water footprint

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Bioengineering
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Waste Management and Disposal


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