The blue water footprint and land use of biofuels from algae

Winnie Gerbens-Leenes, L. Xu, G.J. de Vries, Arjen Ysbert Hoekstra

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Biofuels from microalgae are potentially important sources of liquid renewable energy. Algae are not yet produced on a large scale, but research shows promising results. This study assesses the blue water footprint (WF) and land use of algae-based biofuels. It combines the WF concept with an energy balance approach to determine the blue WF of net energy. The study considers open ponds and closed photobioreactors (PBRs). All systems have a positive energy balance, with output-input ratios ranging between 1.13 and 1.98. This study shows that the WF of algae-based biofuels lies between 8 and 193 m3/GJ net energy provided. The land use of microalgal biofuels ranges from 20 to 200 m2/GJ net energy. For a scenario in which algae-based biofuels provide 3.5% of the transportation fuels in the European Union in 2030, the system with the highest land productivity needs 17,000 km2 to produce the 850 PJ/yr. Producing all algae-based biofuels through the system with the highest water productivity would lead to a blue WF of 7 Gm3/yr, which is equivalent to 15% of the present blue WF in the EU28. A transition to algae-based transportation fuels will substantially increase competition over water and land resources.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8549-8563
Number of pages15
JournalWater resources research
Volume50
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2014

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water footprint
biofuel
alga
land use
energy balance
energy
productivity
European Union
pond
water
liquid
resource

Keywords

  • IR-94071
  • METIS-307444

Cite this

Gerbens-Leenes, Winnie ; Xu, L. ; de Vries, G.J. ; Hoekstra, Arjen Ysbert. / The blue water footprint and land use of biofuels from algae. In: Water resources research. 2014 ; Vol. 50. pp. 8549-8563.
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The blue water footprint and land use of biofuels from algae. / Gerbens-Leenes, Winnie; Xu, L.; de Vries, G.J.; Hoekstra, Arjen Ysbert.

In: Water resources research, Vol. 50, 2014, p. 8549-8563.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

TY - JOUR

T1 - The blue water footprint and land use of biofuels from algae

AU - Gerbens-Leenes, Winnie

AU - Xu, L.

AU - de Vries, G.J.

AU - Hoekstra, Arjen Ysbert

PY - 2014

Y1 - 2014

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AB - Biofuels from microalgae are potentially important sources of liquid renewable energy. Algae are not yet produced on a large scale, but research shows promising results. This study assesses the blue water footprint (WF) and land use of algae-based biofuels. It combines the WF concept with an energy balance approach to determine the blue WF of net energy. The study considers open ponds and closed photobioreactors (PBRs). All systems have a positive energy balance, with output-input ratios ranging between 1.13 and 1.98. This study shows that the WF of algae-based biofuels lies between 8 and 193 m3/GJ net energy provided. The land use of microalgal biofuels ranges from 20 to 200 m2/GJ net energy. For a scenario in which algae-based biofuels provide 3.5% of the transportation fuels in the European Union in 2030, the system with the highest land productivity needs 17,000 km2 to produce the 850 PJ/yr. Producing all algae-based biofuels through the system with the highest water productivity would lead to a blue WF of 7 Gm3/yr, which is equivalent to 15% of the present blue WF in the EU28. A transition to algae-based transportation fuels will substantially increase competition over water and land resources.

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