About the Project: Life Cycle Assessment of Algal Biofuels in the Philippines

As the Philippines was considered to be the fastest economic growing country in Southeast Asia in 2013 (Cerda 2014), the increasing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions remained one of the major environmental concern of the country (Fabe 2014). In 2011, seven-tenths of the Philippine’s CO2 emissions came from the production of energy (44%) and road transportation (26%) (IEA 2013). In addition, the Philippine fuel demand is expected to grow by 10% by 2020, with 56% of the total being the demand for diesel fuel (Shull and Corpuz 2013). To mitigate climate change, the Philippines’ Biofuels Act of 2006 was sanctioned mandating the blending of biodiesel to diesel fuels (at 5% currently) and ethanol to gasoline fuels (at 10% currently) (Republic Act 9367). For biodiesel, coconut has been used as a feedstock to produce coconut methyl ester (CME) in the country. However, the implementation of 5% blend of biodiesel by end of 2013 added pressure in the production of coconut while battling for its fluctuating price. Other feedstocks considered for the production of biodiesel was previously considered (such as jatropha). However, both coconut and jatropha require large amount of land area which competes with food crops. Microalgae is considered to have the highest oil yield per land area compared to competing feedstocks, significantly reducing the competition of land area with food crops (Chisti 2007). Microalgae are mostly unicellular microorganism with a size ranging from one micrometer to one hundred micrometers. Using photosynthesis as their means of living, microalgae converts CO2 and sunlight to oxygen. Further, microalgae are composed of useful biochemicals such as protein, carbohydrates, lipids, and other essential nutrients which can be converted to high-valued products. Due to the country’s archipelagic nature and tropical climate, the Philippines was considered to have the most abundant species of microalgae in the Pacific (Cordero 1990). Hence, the economic potential of a microalgae industry together with the production of algal biofuels in the Philippines is significant.

The potential benefit from the production algal biofuels comes with natural resource consumption and environmental impact. Thus, to assess the sustainability of the production of algal biofuels, life cycle assessment (LCA) was recommended by the US National Research Council (NRC 2012) as an evaluation tool. LCA is an international standardized tool in quantifying and evaluating the environmental impact of processing of products and its supply chain from cradle-to-grave (Tan et al. 2009). In the US, LCA is being used as a framework in crafting their biofuels policies (Soratana 2014). In addition, LCA consists of a four step procedure: 1) goal and scope definition, 2) inventory analysis, 3) impact assessment, and 4) interpretation. LCA studies on algal biofuels was previously conducted offshore (Collet et al. 2013, Handler et al. 2014, Singh and Olsen 2011, Sander and Murthy 2010). However, no LCA study has been done specifically on algal biofuel production in the Philippines. Hence, no impact assessment has been established in processing algal biofuels in Philippines setting leading to unavailable strategy of implementation. An LCA study in the Philippines require a systematic design consideration of the cultivation system and an assessment of the post-cultivation process during its goal and scope definition phase. An inventory lists of raw materials and energy consumed in the Philippines must also established first. Further, impact assessment criteria must also first be established for the Philippines setting global warming potential, acidification, ozone depletion, human toxicity, eutrophication, etc.

This study aims to establish an impact assessment of algal biofuels via LCA approach. Based on the results of the LCA study, recommendation and strategies in implementing algal biofuel production may first be drafted. Further, environmental and energy policies may also be drafted based on the results of the study.

Rationale of the Study

To be able to establish a strategy in the potential implementation of algal biofuels in the Philippines leading to environmental and energy policies, a life-cycle assessment is proposed using material and energy flow in the Philippines.

Objectives of the Study

To conduct a life-cycle assessment of algal biofuel production in the Philippines. The specific objectives of the study are as follows:

  1. Conduct a cultivation training at the University of Arizona with proponents and graduate investigators (PhD and Masters students).
  2. Produce algal biomass from the fabricated cultivation system in both Universities and convert it to biofuels.
  3. Conduct life-cycle assessment on the production of algal biofuels using the supply-chain of raw material and energy mix in the Philippines.

Output of the Study

  1. Published papers on life-cycle assessment algal biofuel production in the Philippines
  2. Life cycle inventory of algal biofuels
  3. Environmental and energy recommendation as an input to the strategy of implementing algal biofuel production.