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Keywords:

  • biofuels;
  • algal oils;
  • Dunaliella;
  • microalgae;
  • deoxygenation

Microalgae are a promising biofuels feedstock, theoretically yielding concentrations of triacylglycerides (TAGs) per unit area that are far higher than traditional feedstocks due to their rapid growth. Dunaliella is particularly advantageous as a feedstock because it is currently commercially mass cultured, thrives in salt water, and has no cell wall. Fourteen strains of Dunaliella have been investigated for growth rates and lipid production in mass culture and tested for enhanced lipid production under a range of environmental stressors including salinity, pH, nitrogen and phosphorus limitation, and light regime. The nuclear genome has been sequenced for four of these strains, with the objective of increasing carbon flux through genetic engineering. Electroflocculation followed by osmotic membrane rupturing may be a very energy and cost efficient means of harvesting the lipid bodies from Dunaliella. A technically feasible and scalable thermo-catalytic process to convert the lipids into replacements for liquid transportation fuels has been developed. The lipids were converted into long-chain alkanes through continuous thermal hydrolysis followed by fed-batch thermo-catalytic decarboxylation. These alkanes can be reformed into renewable diesel via conventional catalytic hydrocarbon isomerization reactions to improve cold flow properties, if desired. © 2013 American Institute of Chemical Engineers Environ Prog, 32: 916–925, 2013