Production of Biodiesel from Algae; The Economic and Environmental Impacts of Biofuel Production

Author: ORCID icon
Kwon, Joseph, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Anderson, Eric, EN-Chem Engr Dept, University of Virginia
Elliott, Travis, EN-Engineering and Society, University of Virginia

This technical paper describes the design of an algae farm and biodiesel refinery. Kinetic data, Aspen Plus modeling, and other key chemical engineering considerations were used to create this design. The motivation for attempting to design this plant is two-fold. Firstly, it provides a means of obtaining a green fuel source that competes with fossil fuels through the production of biodiesel. Secondly, it uses poultry litter as a nutrient source, which will help prevent the nutrients from entering natural waterways and causing damage. An economic analysis was performed on the design in order to determine the feasibility of its implementation. This analysis involved the equipment cost, labor and benefits costs, utility costs, raw material costs, and taxes.

The purpose of the STS thesis is to analyze the acceptance, or rather lack thereof, of plant-based biofuels by several notable environmentalist groups. While the general population seems to accept biofuels as a reliable and unconditional replacement for traditional diesels, those intimately familiar with the subject seem to find it difficult to fully support it, either due to a lack of information (Ryan, 2009), or concerns over potential unintended socioeconomic consequences (Friends of the Earth, n.d.). This discrepancy, if left unchecked, could lead to potentially disastrous implications as the technology develops. Remaining ignorant of the views and concerns of one group of stakeholders could, at best, lead to a rejection of the technology, and at worst, lead to the acceptance of a technology that causes more harm to the environment and society than good. As such, it is crucial that the desires of each group are fully understood, and examined in a nuanced way. To accomplish this, I utilize the Social Construction of Technology (SCOT) methodology, where focus is placed on the analysis of the attitudes of each relevant social group by using a Framework of Attitudes Towards Technology (ATT) (Ehlers & Kerschner, 2016).

BS (Bachelor of Science)
biofuel, biodiesel, algae
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