Clean Technologies and Environmental Policy

, Volume 19, Issue 3, pp 637–668 | Cite as

A review of biodiesel production from microalgae

  • Selena Dickinson
  • Miranda Mientus
  • Daniel Frey
  • Arsalon Amini-Hajibashi
  • Serdar Ozturk
  • Faisal Shaikh
  • Debalina Sengupta
  • Mahmoud M. El-Halwagi


As the search for alternatives to fossil fuels continues, microalgae have emerged as a promising renewable feedstock for biodiesel. Many species contain high lipid concentrations and require simple cultivation—including reduced freshwater and land area needs—compared to traditional crops used for biofuels. Recently, technological advancements have brought microalgae biodiesel closer to becoming economically feasible through increased efficiency of the cultivation, harvesting, pretreatment, lipid extraction, and transesterification subsystems. The metabolism of microalgae can be favorably manipulated to increase lipid productivity through environmental stressors, and “green” techniques such as using flue gas as a carbon source and wastewater as a media replacement can lower the environmental impact of biodiesel production. Through life cycle assessment and the creation of process models, valuable insights have been made into the energy and material sinks of the manufacturing process, helping to identify methods to successfully scale up microalgae biodiesel production. Several companies are already exploring the microalgae industry, offsetting operating costs through isolation of co-products and careful unit operation selection. With numerous examples drawn from industry and the literature, this review provides a practical approach for creating a microalgae biodiesel facility.


Biodiesel Biofuel Energy Life cycle analysis Microalgae Sustainability 



Energy efficiency ratio


Fatty acid ethyl ester


Fatty acid methyl ester


Free fatty acids


High-pressure homogenization


Life cycle analysis


Pulsed electric field



% wt

Weight percentage


Volume ratio


Weight ratio



























Mole number









The authors would like to thank Wesley Zloza, Kyra Gudgel, Caitlin Liddiard, Brock Shilling, Victoria St. Martin, and Alex Fuerst for their assistance in image production.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Biomolecular Engineering Program, Physics and Chemistry DepartmentMilwaukee School of EngineeringMilwaukeeUSA
  2. 2.Gas and Fuels Research CenterTexas A&M Engineering Experiment StationCollege StationUSA
  3. 3.Chemical Engineering DepartmentTexas A&M UniversityCollege StationUSA

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