Rotating algal biofilm versus planktonic cultivation : LCA perspective Article - Juin 2020

Marjorie Morales, Hubert Bonnefond, Olivier Bernard

Marjorie Morales, Hubert Bonnefond, Olivier Bernard, « Rotating algal biofilm versus planktonic cultivation : LCA perspective  », Journal of Cleaner Production, juin 2020, p. 120547. ISSN 0959-6526


Commercial microalgae production with conventional suspended cultures is still facing the challenge of high operational costs related to mixing and harvesting diluted biomass. Attached culture system is an emerging technology for replacing the suspended culture systems, were the biomass grows as a biofilm on a supporting belt that is continuously rotating between the liquid and gaseous phases. Immobilized culture systems have several advantages, when compared to suspended culture systems, such as higher biomass productivity and straightforward harvesting and concentration. Ready-to-use biomass with water content between 80-90% is harvested by simple scrapping, avoiding some dewatering steps. However, additional infrastructures are required increasing material and electricity demands. This study is a comparative pond to gate life cycle assessment of the environmental impacts, energetic and materials demands between the conventional Open Raceways Ponds (ORP) and Rotating Algal Biofilm (RAB), considering large-scale production of Tetraselmis suecica. Two products were analysed : microalgae biomass at 20%-DW and algae meal (protein concentrate powder). The results were also compared with the conventional protein sources, such as soymeal and fishmeal. Considering that both systems achieve the same productivity (20 g•m-2 •d-1), the environmental impacts, measured trough a single aggregated eco-point value, were 26% and 24% higher in attaching system than ORP, per kilogram of biomass at 20%-DW and protein powder (algae meal), respectively. Both solutions offer a significant environmental improvement when compared to soymeal and fishmeal. Productivities 40% higher in RAB are required to obtain lower environmental impacts than ORP system. Electrical demands reductions up to 83% and 62% per kilogram of biomass 20%-DW and kilogram of algae meal, respectively, were reached by RAB approach. If RAB can substantiate a 50% increase in productivity on the long run, then the eco-points gains will be 20%, with reductions higher than 55% in electricity requirements and around 30% in the water consumption. The efficient energy performance of RAB, and its considerable margin of improvement make it a promising alternative to conventional open raceway systems.

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