Stochastic LCA Model of Upscaling the Production of Microalgal Compounds

Pierre Jouannais, Stefan Hindersin, Sarah Löhn, Massimo Pizzol*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
38 Downloads (Pure)


Microalgae are currently being investigated for their promising metabolites but assessing the environmental impact of producing these compounds remains a challenge. Microalgae cultivation performance results from the complex interaction of biological, technological, geographical, and physical factors, which bioengineers try to optimize during the upscaling process. The path from the discovery of a microalgal compound to its industrial production is therefore highly uncertain. Nonetheless, it is key to anticipate the potential environmental impacts associated with the future production of a microalgal target compound. This is achieved in this study by developing an ex-ante, parameterized, and consequential LCA model that performs dynamic simulations of microalgae cultivation. The model is applied to calculate the environmental impacts of 9000 stochastically generated combinations of photobioreactor geometries and operational setups. The demonstration of the model is done for a fictive microalgal strain, parameterized to resemble Chlorella vulgaris, and a fictive target compound assumed to be a carbohydrate. The simulations are performed in Aalborg, Denmark, and Granada, Spain to appreciate geographical variability, which highly affects the requirements for thermoregulation. Open-source documentation allows full reproducibility and further use of the model for the ex-ante assessment of microalgal products.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number14
Pages (from-to)10454-10464
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 19 Jul 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. The authors thank all members of the project for the insightful discussions around this work.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 American Chemical Society.


  • life cycle assessment
  • microalgae
  • photobioreactor
  • uncertainty
  • upscaling
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Chlorella vulgaris
  • Biomass
  • Biofuels
  • Photobioreactors
  • Microalgae/metabolism


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