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Energy performance and greenhouse gas emissions of kelp cultivation for biogas and fertilizer recovery in Sweden

Journal article
Authors J. S. Pechsiri
J. B. E. Thomas
E. Risén
M. S. Ribeiro
M. E. Malmström
Göran M. Nylund
A. Jansson
U. Welander
Henrik Pavia
F. Gröndahl
Published in Science of the Total Environment
Volume 573
Pages 347-355
ISSN 0048-9697
Publication year 2016
Published at Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences, Tjärnö Marine Biological Laboratory
Pages 347-355
Language en
Keywords Biorefinery, Economy of scale, Energy return on investment (EROI), EURED GHG savings, Saccharina latissima, Swedish macroalgae cultivation
Subject categories Energy Systems, Bioenergy


The cultivation of seaweed as a feedstock for third generation biofuels is gathering interest in Europe, however, many questions remain unanswered in practise, notably regarding scales of operation, energy returns on investment (EROI) and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, all of which are crucial to determine commercial viability. This study performed an energy and GHG emissions analysis, using EROI and GHG savings potential respectively, as indicators of commercial viability for two systems: the Swedish Seafarm project's seaweed cultivation (0.5 ha), biogas and fertilizer biorefinery, and an estimation of the same system scaled up and adjusted to a cultivation of 10 ha. Based on a conservative estimate of biogas yield, neither the 0.5 ha case nor the up-scaled 10 ha estimates met the (commercial viability) target EROI of 3, nor the European Union Renewable Energy Directive GHG savings target of 60% for biofuels, however the potential for commercial viability was substantially improved by scaling up operations: GHG emissions and energy demand, per unit of biogas, was almost halved by scaling operations up by a factor of twenty, thereby approaching the EROI and GHG savings targets set, under beneficial biogas production conditions. Further analysis identified processes whose optimisations would have a large impact on energy use and emissions (such as anaerobic digestion) as well as others embodying potential for further economies of scale (such as harvesting), both of which would be of interest for future developments of kelp to biogas and fertilizer biorefineries. © 2016

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