An integrated resource and biological growth model for estimating algal biomass production with geographic resolution



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This thesis describes a geographically- and temporally-resolved, integrated biological and engineering model that estimates algal biomass and lipid production under resource-limited conditions with hourly and county resolution. Four primary resources are considered in this model: sunlight, carbon dioxide, water, and land. The variation in quantity and distribution of these resources affects algae growth, and is integrated into the analysis using a Monod model of algae growth, solar insolation data, and published values for water, carbon dioxide, and land availability. Finally, lipid production is calculated by assuming oil content based on dry weight of the biomass. The model accommodates a range of growth and production scenarios, including water recycling, co-location with wastewater treatment plants and coal-fired generators, and photobioreactor type (open pond or tubular), among others. Results for every county in Texas indicate that between 86 million and 2.2 billion gallons of lipids per year can be produced statewide for the various growth scenarios. The analysis suggests that algal biomass and lipid production does indeed vary geographically and temporally across Texas. Overall, most counties are water-limited for algae production, not sunlight or carbon dioxide-limited. However, there are many nuances in biomass and lipid production by county. Counties in west Texas are typically not solar- or land-limited, but are constrained by either water or carbon dioxide resources. Consequently, counties in east Texas are limited by either water, or land (depending on the fraction of water recycling). Varying carbon dioxide concentration results in higher growth rates, but not always increased biomass and lipid production because of limitations of other resources in each county.