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Previous assessments of the economic feasibility and large-scale productivity of microalgae biofuels have not considered the impacts of land and carbon dioxide (CO2) availability on the scalability of microalgae-based biofuels production. To accurately assess the near-term productivity potential of large-scale microalgae biofuel in the US, a geographically realized growth model was used to simulate microalgae lipid yields based on meteorological data. The resulting lipid productivity potential of Nannochloropsis under large-scale cultivation is combined with land and CO2 resource availability illustrating current geographically feasible production sites and corresponding productivity in the US. Baseline results show that CO2 transport constraints will limit US microalgae based bio-oil production to 4% of the 2030 Department of Energy (DOE) alternative fuel goal. The discussion focuses on synthesis of this large-scale productivity potential results including a sensitivity analysis to land and CO2 resource assumptions, an evaluation of previous modeling efforts and their assumptions regarding the transportation of CO2, the feasibility of microalgae to meet DOE 2030 alternative fuel goals, and a comparison of the productivity potential in several key regions of the US.


This work made publicly available electronically on November 5, 2012.