Carbon dioxide to bio-oil in a bioelectrochemical system-assisted microalgae biorefinery process

Microbial electrosynthesis (MES) for bioelectro carbon dioxide (CO2) recycling is an interesting and sustainable opportunity to exploit off gases from industrial facilities and convert them into valuable energy sources. In the present study, a two-step process based on coupling a bioelectrochemical system (BES) and heterotrophic microalgaeAuxenochlorella protothecoidesis proposed to convert carbon dioxide into a biodiesel compatible oil. The MES effluent was further processed in a heterotrophic microalgae batch reactor, where the acetate previously synthesized from CO2was converted into bio-oil in a subsequent, extraction-free step. Two MES reactors were operated in batch mode at an applied cathodic potential of −0.8 Vvs.SHE (standard hydrogen electrode) for 95 days. The system reached a concentration of up to 13 g L−1of acetate (at a maximum production rate of 0.29 g L−1d−1). Microbial community analysis revealed the presence ofClostridiumspp. in both reactors. In a second stage, the effluent from the biocathode was transferred to microalgae reactors containingA. protothecoidesto assess oil production. The bio-oil content was up to 22% w/w (dry weight), sufficient to further explore the feasibility of microalgae-to-oil recovery in the future. According to our estimations, 7.59 kg CO2can be converted into 1 kg acetate, which can be used to grow heterotrophically 1.11 kg dry algae; an overall balance of 0.03 kg bio-oil produced per kg CO2captured was assessed. The oil obtained can be further processed to produce a biodiesel compatible with EU requirements for biofuels. 

Additional Info

  • Year: 2022
  • Authors: Bolognesi S., Bañeras L., Perona-Vico E., Capodaglio A.G., Balaguer M.D., Puig S.
  • Reference: Sustainable Energy and Fuels, Open Access, Volume 6, Issue 1, Pages 150 - 1617 January 2022

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Laboratory of Chemical and Enviromental Engineering

Institut de Medi Ambient
Universitat de Girona
Campus Montilivi
17003 Girona

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17003 Girona
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