Stochastic Ex-Ante LCA under Multidimensional Uncertainty: Anticipating the Production of Undiscovered Microalgal Compounds in Europe

Pierre Jouannais, Massimo Pizzol*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
6 Downloads (Pure)


Due to their biodiversity, microalgae represent a promising source of high-value compounds that bioprospecting is aiming to reveal. Performing an ex-ante Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) to anticipate and potentially minimize the environmental burden associated with the European production of a bioprospected microalgal compound is subject to substantial and multi-factorial uncertainty as the compound remains undiscovered. Given that any microalgal strain could potentially host the compound of interest, the ex-ante LCA should consider this bioprospecting uncertainty together with the uncertainty on the technology and the production mix. Using a parameterized cultivation simulation and consequential LCA model and an extensive stochastic pseudo Monte Carlo approach, we define and propagate techno-operational, bioprospecting, and production mix uncertainties for a microalgal compound being currently bioprospected in Europe. We perform global sensitivity analysis using different sampling strategies to identify the main contributors to the total output variance. Overall, the uncertainty propagation allowed us to define and analyze the probabilistic scope for the potential environmental impacts in the emerging production of high-value microalgal compounds in Europe based on current knowledge. These findings can support policy-making as well as actors in the microalgal sector toward technological paths with lower environmental impact.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number22
Pages (from-to)16382-16393
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 15 Nov 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was carried out within the AquaHealth project, funded by the ERA-NET Cofund BlueBio program, grant no. 9082-00010.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 American Chemical Society.


  • ex-ante
  • industrial ecology
  • Life-Cycle Assessment
  • microalgae
  • uncertainty
  • Uncertainty
  • Europe
  • Microalgae
  • Biomass
  • Biodiversity
  • Biofuels
  • Monte Carlo Method


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