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Environmental evaluation of eicosapentaenoic acid production by Phaeodactylum tricornutum
Perez-Lopez, P.; Gonzalez-Garcia, S.; Allewaert, C.; Verween, A.; Murray, P.; Feijoo, G.; Moreira, M. (2014). Environmental evaluation of eicosapentaenoic acid production by Phaeodactylum tricornutum. Sci. Total Environ. 466-467: 991-1002.
In: Science of the Total Environment. Elsevier: Amsterdam. ISSN 0048-9697; e-ISSN 1879-1026, more
Peer reviewed article  

Available in  Authors 

Author keywords
    Environmental assessment; Marine eukaryotic microalgae; Life cycleassessment; Life cycle inventory (LCI); PUFAs; EPA

Authors  Top 
  • Perez-Lopez, P.
  • Gonzalez-Garcia, S.
  • Allewaert, C., more
  • Verween, A., more
  • Murray, P.
  • Feijoo, G.
  • Moreira, M.

    Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) play an important role in human health. Due to the increased market demand, the production of PUFAs from potential alternative sources such as microalgae is receiving increased interest. The aim of this study was to perform a life cycle assessment (LCA) of the biotechnological production of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) from the marine diatom Phaeodactylum tricornutum, followed by the identification of avenues to improve its environmental profile. The LCA tackles two production schemes of P. tricornutum PUFAs with an EPA content of 36%: lab and pilot scales. The results at lab scale show that both the electricity requirements and the production of the extraction agent (chloroform) have significant influence on the life cycle environmental performance of microalgal EPA production. An alternative method based on hexane was proposed to replace chloroform and environmental benefits were identified. Regarding the production of EPA at pilot scale, three main environmental factors were identified: the production of the nitrogen source required for microalgae growing, the transport activities and electricity requirements. Improvement alternatives were proposed and discussed concerning: a) the use of nitrogen based fertilizers, b) the valorization of the residual algal paste as soil conditioner and, c) the anaerobic digestion of the residual algal paste for bioenergy production. Encouraging environmental benefits could be achieved if sodium nitrate was substituted by urea, calcium nitrate or ammonium nitrate, regardless the category under assessment. In contrast, minor improvement was found when valorizing the residual algal paste as mineral fertilizer, due to its overall low content in N and P. Concerning the biogas production from the anaerobic digestion, the improvement on the environmental profile was also limited due to the discrepancy between the potential energy production from the algal paste and the high electricity requirements in the culturing and extraction stages.

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