The feasibility of microalgae production for biodiesel was discussed. Although algae are not yet produced at large scale for bulk applications, there are opportunities to develop this process in a sustainable way. It remains unlikely, however, that the process will be developed for biodiesel as the only end product from microalgae. In order to develop a more sustainable and economically feasible process, all biomass components (e.g. proteins, lipids, carbohydrates) should be used and therefore biorefining of microalgae is very important for the selective separation and use of the functional biomass components. If biorefining of microalgae is applied, lipids should be fractionated into lipids for biodiesel, lipids as a feedstock for the chemical industry and ω-3 fatty acids, proteins and carbohydrates for food, feed and bulk chemicals, and the oxygen produced should be recovered also. If, in addition, production of algae is done on residual nutrient feedstocks and CO2, and production of microalgae is done on a large scale against low production costs, production of bulk chemicals and fuels from microalgae will become economically feasible.
In order to obtain that, a number of bottlenecks need to be removed and a multidisciplinary approach in which systems biology, metabolic modeling, strain development, photobioreactor design and operation, scale-up, biorefining, integrated production chain, and the whole system design (including logistics) should be addressed. Copyright © 2010 Society of Chemical Industry and John Wiley & Sons, Ltd