Sustainability of Microalgal Biorefinery: Scope, Challenges, and Opportunities

  • Geetanjali Yadav
  • Ramkrishna Sen
Part of the Green Energy and Technology book series (GREEN)


The potential of microalgae as a source of renewable energy is of considerable interest. During recent initiatives being taken at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21) held in Paris, about 196 attending nations have set goals to limit global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius (°C) compared to pre-industrial levels and move toward attaining zero net anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions by the second half of the twenty-first century. This necessitates curtailing the usage of non-renewable resources, primarily fossil fuels, which are one of the biggest contributors of GHGs and explore more bio-based alternatives, such as microalgae. A key attraction of algae as biofuel feedstock lies in the potential for high annual oil productivity per unit of area. Due to the wide availability and potential of cultivation or occurrence in naturally occurring habitats including harsh environments such as extreme temperatures, salinity, pH, multiple products could be obtained from a variety of algal species. This multi-product paradigm makes it a suitable candidate for the biorefinery concept. An algal biorefinery aims to increase value from green biomass by recovering every component for its use as feedstock in myriad applications such as biofuels, food and feed, fertilizer, and pharmaceuticals. However, existing biorefinery methods have to be duly modified, improved, and widely adapted for the sustainable production of microalgal biomass and its associated benefits. Thus, this chapter presents a framework to analyze sustainability as cultivation, harvesting, and processing of microalgal biomass and use of bioenergy/refinery has a large range of associated sustainability issues. The process economics of biomass facility production, carbon sequestration, and waste mitigation have been discussed to comply various sustainability criteria for the successful implementation of algal-based biorefinery at commercial scale.


Algal biorefinery Sustainability Bioenergy Co-culture Life cycle assessment 



Geetanjali Yadav acknowledges the financial support provided by Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Government of India, during her doctoral studies. Authors thankfully acknowledge their institute IIT Kharagpur for providing library and computer facilities.


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© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of BiotechnologyIndian Institute of Technology KharagpurKharagpurIndia

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