Algal biofuels are increasingly important as a source of renewable energy. The absence of reliable thermodynamic and other property data, and the large amount of kinetic data that would normally be required have created a major barrier to simulation. Additionally, the absence of a generally accepted flow sheet for biofuel production means that detailed simulation of the wrong approach is a real possibility. This model of algal biofuel production estimates the necessary data and places it into a heuristic model using a commercial simulator that back-calculates the process structure required. Furthermore, complex kinetics can be obviated for now by putting the simulator into energy limitation and forcing it to solve for the missing design variables, such as bioreactor surface area, productivity, and oil content. The model does not attempt to prescribe a particular approach but provides a guide toward a sound engineering approach to this challenging and important problem. © 2013 American Institute of Chemical Engineers AIChE J, 59: 4641–4654, 2013
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