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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2012. Sustainable Development of Algal Biofuels in the United States. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13437.
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Sustainable Development of

Algal Biofuels

in the United States

Committee on the Sustainable Development of Algal Biofuels

Board on Agriculture and Natural Resources
Division on Earth and Life Studies

Board on Energy and Environmental Systems
Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences

NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL
                                                                    OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES

THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS
Washington, D.C.
www.nap.edu

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2012. Sustainable Development of Algal Biofuels in the United States. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13437.
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THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS     500 Fifth Street, NW     Washington, DC 20001

NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance.

This study was supported by Contract/Grant No. DE-DT0001899 between the National Academy of Sciences and the Department of Energy. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the organizations or agencies that provided support for the project.

International Standard Book Number 13: 978-0-309-26032-9
International Standard Book Number 10: 0-309-26032-9

Additional copies of this report are available for sale from the National Academies Press, 500 Fifth Street, NW, Keck 360, Washington, DC 20001; (800) 624-6242 or (202) 334-3313; http://www.nap.edu/.

Cover: Design by Anne Rogers. Photo courtesy of Sammy Boussiba, J. Blaustein Institute for Desert Research, Sde-Boker.

Copyright 2012 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

Printed in the United States of America

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2012. Sustainable Development of Algal Biofuels in the United States. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13437.
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THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES

Advisers to the Nation on Science, Engineering, and Medicine

The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone is president of the National Academy of Sciences.

The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964, under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers. It is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of its members, sharing with the National Academy of Sciences the responsibility for advising the federal government. The National Academy of Engineering also sponsors engineering programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research, and recognizes the superior achievements of engineers. Dr. Charles M. Vest is president of the National Academy of Engineering.

The Institute of Medicine was established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences to secure the services of eminent members of appropriate professions in the examination of policy matters pertaining to the health of the public. The Institute acts under the responsibility given to the National Academy of Sciences by its congressional charter to be an adviser to the federal government and, upon its own initiative, to identify issues of medical care, research, and education. Dr. Harvey V. Fineberg is president of the Institute of Medicine.

The National Research Council was organized by the National Academy of Sciences in 1916 to associate the broad community of science and technology with the Academy’s purposes of furthering knowledge and advising the federal government. Functioning in accordance with general policies determined by the Academy, the Council has become the principal operating agency of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in providing services to the government, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities. The Council is administered jointly by both Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone and Dr. Charles M. Vest are chair and vice chair, respectively, of the National Research Council.

www.national-academies.org

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2012. Sustainable Development of Algal Biofuels in the United States. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13437.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2012. Sustainable Development of Algal Biofuels in the United States. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13437.
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COMMITTEE ON THE SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT OF ALGAL BIOFUELS

JENNIE C. HUNTER-CEVERA, Chair, Hunter and Associates, Ellicott City, Maryland

SAMMY BOUSSIBA, J. Blaustein Institute for Desert Research, Sde-Boker

JOEL L. CUELLO, The University of Arizona, Tucson

CLIFFORD S. DUKE, Ecological Society of America, Washington, DC

REBECCA A. EFROYMSON, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Tennessee

SUSAN S. GOLDEN, University of California, San Diego

JENNIFER HOLMGREN, Lanzatech, Roselle, Illinois

DONALD L. JOHNSON, Grain-Processing Corporation (retired), Muscatine, Iowa

MARK E. JONES, The Dow Chemical Company, Midland, Michigan

VAL H. SMITH, The University of Kansas, Lawrence

CAI STEGER, Natural Resources Defense Council, New York

GREGORY N. STEPHANAPOULOS, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Massachusetts

LARRY P. WALKER, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York

ERIC WILLIAMS, Rochester Institute of Technology, New York

PAUL V. ZIMBA, Texas A&M University, Corpus Christi

Staff

EVONNE P.Y. TANG, Study Codirector

K. JOHN HOLMES, Study Codirector

RUTH S. ARIETI, Research Associate

KATHLEEN REIMER, Senior Program Assistant

ROBIN A. SCHOEN, Director

JAMES ZUCCHETTO, Director

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2012. Sustainable Development of Algal Biofuels in the United States. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13437.
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BOARD ON AGRICULTURE AND NATURAL RESOURCES

NORMAN R. SCOTT, Chair, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York (Emeritus)

PEGGY F. BARLETT, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia

HAROLD L. BERGMAN, University of Wyoming, Laramie

RICHARD A. DIXON, Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, Ardmore, Oklahoma

DANIEL M. DOOLEY, University of California, Oakland

JOAN H. EISEMANN, North Carolina State University, Raleigh

GARY F. HARTNELL, Monsanto Company, St. Louis, Missouri

GENE HUGOSON, Global Initiatives for Food Systems Leadership, St. Paul, Minnesota

MOLLY M. JAHN, University of Wisconsin-Madison

ROBBIN S. JOHNSON, Cargill Foundation, Wayzata, Minnesota

A.G. KAWAMURA, Solutions from the Land, Washington, DC

JULIA L. KORNEGAY, North Carolina State University, Raleigh

KIRK C. KLASING, University of California, Davis

VICTOR L. LECHTENBERG, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana

PHILIP E. NELSON, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana

KEITH PITTS, Marrone Bio Innovations, Davis, California

CHARLES W. RICE, Kansas State University, Manhattan

HAL SALWASSER, Oregon State University, Corvallis

ROGER A. SEDJO, Resources for the Future, Washington, DC

KATHLEEN SEGERSON, University of Connecticut, Storrs

MERCEDES VAZQUEZ-AÑON, Novus International, Inc., St. Charles, Missouri

Staff

ROBIN A. SCHOEN, Director

CAMILLA YANDOC ABLES, Program Officer

RUTH S. ARIETI, Research Associate

KAREN L. IMHOF, Administrative Coordinator

KARA N. LANEY, Program Officer

JANET M. MULLIGAN, Senior Program Associate for Research

KATHLEEN REIMER, Senior Program Assistant

EVONNE P.Y. TANG, Senior Program Officer

PEGGY TSAI, Program Officer

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2012. Sustainable Development of Algal Biofuels in the United States. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13437.
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BOARD ON ENERGY AND ENVIRONMENTAL SYSTEMS

ANDREW BROWN, JR., Chair, Delphi Corporation, Troy, Michigan

WILLIAM F. BANHOLZER, The Dow Chemical Company, Midland, Michigan

MARILYN BROWN, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta

WILLIAM CAVANAUGH III, Progress Energy (retired), Raleigh, North Carolina

PAUL DeCOTIS, Long Island Power Authority, Albany, New York

CHRISTINE EHLIG-ECONOMIDES, Texas A&M University, College Station

SHERRI GOODMAN, CNA, Alexandria, Virginia

NARAIN HINGORANI, Independent Consultant, Los Altos Hills, California

ROBERT HUGGETT, Independent Consultant, Seaford, Virginia

DEBBIE NIEMEIER, University of California, Davis

DANIEL NOCERA, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge

MICHAEL OPPENHEIMER, Princeton University, New Jersey

DAN REICHER, Stanford University, California

BERNARD ROBERTSON, Daimler-Chrysler (retired), Bloomfield Hills, Michigan

GARY ROGERS, FEV, Inc, Auburn Hills, Michigan

ALISON SILVERSTEIN, Consultant, Pflugerville, Texas

MARK THIEMENS, University of California, San Diego

RICHARD WHITE, Oppenheimer & Company, New York City

Staff

JAMES ZUCCHETTO, Director

DANA CAINES, Financial Associate

ALAN CRANE, Senior Program Officer

K. JOHN HOLMES, Senior Program Officer

LANITA JONES, Administrative Coordinator

ALICE WILLIAMS, Senior Program Assistant

JONATHAN YANGER, Senior Project Assistant

Page viii Cite
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2012. Sustainable Development of Algal Biofuels in the United States. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13437.
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Preface

The desire to develop energy sources that can provide greater environmental and security benefits has spurred research and investments in the development of alternatives to petroleum, the dominant source of liquid transportation fuels. Because of its high biomass (and oil productivity in some cases), algae and cyanobacteria (commonly referred to as blue-green algae) frequently have been considered a promising renewable feedstock for fuel production. We all were taught that petroleum and other fossil fuels formed on this planet from plant remains that were compressed for millions of years at high temperatures. It seems fitting that scientists would choose to study some of the most primitive life forms to develop large-scale biofuel replacements for such fossil fuels. Algae have been grown under a variety of conditions for the production of lipids and high-value products for several decades. Two factors that influenced the consideration of algal biofuel production in the past were the cost of a barrel of oil and the ability to cultivate algae and process them into transportation fuel at a reasonable cost. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) had a robust program to develop biofuels from algae from 1978 to 1996, when it was concluded that algal biofuel would not be cost competitive with petroleum soon. Fast forward to 2012, and with advances in genetics and engineering, we are back to the future in considering whether algae can be an economic and sustainable alternative source of liquid transportation fuels. Could it be that use of algae to produce biofuels is the answer to becoming less dependent on foreign oil?

At the request of DOE, the National Research Council (NRC) appointed a committee of 15 experts with diverse backgrounds and experience to examine the sustainability of algal biofuels. The committee reviewed many scientific papers and government and industry reports, and listened first hand to company representatives, academic experts, and government agency program managers who deal with production of algal biofuels. The committee also met three times and held regularly scheduled conference calls to deliberate and reach agreement as to how to best address the charge from DOE to identify potential sustainability concerns, mitigate environmental concerns, and identify indicators of sustainability and metrics that could be used to monitor progress as the technology advances on several fronts.

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2012. Sustainable Development of Algal Biofuels in the United States. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13437.
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In its consideration of the task, the committee examined the algal biofuel supply chain from the characteristics of the species to the methods for cultivation and processing into fuels. It separated the potential pathways for deployment into four basic scenarios and used those scenarios to help assess the resource needs and environmental concerns resulting from the location and design of large-scale production. The outcome of the current knowledge available through literature and discussion by the committee is this report on sustainable development of algal biofuels. This report does not address economic analyses or comparative life-cycle analyses. However, it provides a framework for assessing sustainability as the DOE continues to invest in algal biofuel research and development.

I thank the committee members and NRC staff for the very stimulating and thoughtprovoking dialogue and for their many contributions to the writing of this report.

Jennie C. Hunter-Cevera
Chair, Committee on Sustainable
Development of Algal Biofuels

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2012. Sustainable Development of Algal Biofuels in the United States. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13437.
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Acknowledgments

This report has been reviewed in draft form by persons chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise in accordance with procedures approved by the National Research Council’s Report Review Committee. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the institution in making its published report as sound as possible and to ensure that the report meets institutional standards of objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process. We wish to thank the following for their review of this report:

Brenda Little, Naval Research Laboratory

James R. Katzer, Exxon Mobil Research and Engineering Company (retired)

Qiang Hu, Arizona State University

Paul DeCotis, Long Island Power Authority

Andres Clarens, University of Virginia

Paul Roessler, Algenol, LLC

Amha Belay, Earthrise Nutritional, LLC

LaReesa Wolfenbarger, University of Nebraska, Omaha

Jason Hill, University of Minnesota

Tryg Lundquist, California Polytechnic State Institute

Christopher R. Somerville, University of California, Berkeley, and Energy Biosciences Institute

Robert Haselkorn, University of Chicago

Barry Solomon, Michigan Technology University

Although the reviewers listed above have provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the conclusions or recommendations, nor did they see the final draft of the report before its release. The review of this report was overseen

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2012. Sustainable Development of Algal Biofuels in the United States. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13437.
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by coordinator, George M. Hornberger, appointed by the Division of Earth and Life Studies, and monitor, Mark R. Cullen, appointed by the NRC’s Report Review Committee. The coordinator and monitor were responsible for making certain that an independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with institutional procedures and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility for the final content of this report rests entirely with the author committee and the institution.

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Biofuels made from algae are gaining attention as a domestic source of renewable fuel. However, with current technologies, scaling up production of algal biofuels to meet even 5 percent of U.S. transportation fuel needs could create unsustainable demands for energy, water, and nutrient resources. Continued research and development could yield innovations to address these challenges, but determining if algal biofuel is a viable fuel alternative will involve comparing the environmental, economic and social impacts of algal biofuel production and use to those associated with petroleum-based fuels and other fuel sources. Sustainable Development of Algal Biofuels was produced at the request of the U.S. Department of Energy.

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