Despite the known advantages of microalgae compared with other biomass providers or fossil fuels, microalgae are predominately produced for high-value products. Economic constraints might limit the commercial energetic use of microalgae. Therefore, we identify the LCCs (life cycle costs) and economic hot spots for photoautotrophic hydrogen generation from photoautotrophically grown Chlamydomonas reinhardtii in a novel staggered PBR (photobioreactor) and the anaerobic digestion of the residual biomass to obtain biogas. The novel PBR aims at minimizing energy consumption for mixing and aeration and at optimizing the light conditions for algal growth. The LCCs per MJ amounted to 12.17 Euro for hydrogen and 0.99 Euro for biogas in 2011 for Germany. Market prices per MJ of 0.02 Euro for biogas and 0.04 Euro for hydrogen are considerably exceeded. Major contributors to operating costs, about 70% of total LCCs, are personnel and overhead costs. The investment costs consist to about 92% of those for the PBR with a share of 61% membrane costs. The choice of Madrid as another production location with higher incident solar irradiation and lower personnel costs reduces LCCs by about 40%. Projecting LCCs to 2030 with experience curves, the LCCs still exceed future market prices.
- Economic analysis
- Life cycle costing