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Algal Oil Production

Modeling and Evaluation using SuperPro Designer

Simulation, Design, and Scheduling Tools
for the Process Manufacturing Industries

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In recent years, the scope of research on microalgae has expanded from merely improving production of
traditional products (e.g., nutrients for the food supplement industry) to developing new products such
as biofuels. In fact, algae are now considered one of the most promising feed stocks for biofuels. The
interest in algae as a fuel source is partly due to environmental motives (e.g., reduction in non-
renewable fuel use, reduction in net CO2 production, and efficient use of farmland) and partly due to
technological improvements related to cheaper and more-efficient genetic modification of algae, which
has the potential to greatly improve its productivity.1

Microalgae can be used to produce a number of different biofuel products, such as ethanol, butanol,
and fatty acids (lipids) which can be converted into biodiesel. Alternatively, the whole algae biomass
may be processed into crude oil, although this process is relatively inefficient. As a result, production of
lipids or direct production of ethanol and butanol are considered to be more promising than conversion
of algal biomass into crude oil. Furthermore, although production costs of commodity products
synthesized from algae in photobioreactors are currently much too high to achieve profitability, there is
great potential for algae to be used for production of fuels and chemicals as the related technology
(including the productivity of genetically-engineered strains) continues to develop.

The SuperPro Designer model associated with this example provides a basic representation of an algae
production and purification process that generates a lipid, tripalmitin, a triglyceride of palmitic acid
abbreviated as TAG in the SuperPro model. TAG could subsequently be converted into bio-diesel or jet
fuel. This example was created by modifying a related model developed by Dr. Daniel Klein-
Marcuschamer (DKM) at the Joint BioEnergy Institute in Emeryville, CA. DKMs original SuperPro model
can be downloaded from http://pathway.soe.uq.edu.au/mediawiki/index.php/Main_Page. DKMs model
converts TAG into aviation fuel as its main product. The BioDiesel example that ships with SuperPro
Designer analyzes a process for converting TAG into bio-diesel.

1 Process Description
This example analyzes the production and purification of TAG algal oil synthesized in raceway ponds.
Approximately 8.3 metric tons (MT) per hour of purified algal oil is produced. The SuperPro file
associated with this example, titled AlgalOil.spf, can be found in the AlgalOil subdirectory of the
SuperPro EXAMPLES directory. This example has been divided into six sections: Algae Ponds, Algae
Harvesting, Hexane Extraction, Degumming, Anaerobic Digestion, and Cogeneration. Each of the
sections in this example has been assigned a different color (black, blue, brown, green, purple, and
orange, respectively). Flowsheet sections in SuperPro are simply sets of related unit procedures (i.e.,
processing steps). The purpose and basic steps associated with these sections are described briefly
below. Note that throughout this document, it is assumed that you have a basic understanding of how
to set up and simulate processes with SuperPro Designer. Also note that this flowsheet is entirely in

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continuous mode of operation. Therefore, scheduling information is not specified, and all operations are
assumed to run at steady state.

1.1 Algae Pond Section

This section is devoted to the production of algae in raceway ponds, as well as the supporting nutrient
and water supply infrastructure. The nutrients include Phosphate (DAP, 1 MT/h) and Nitrate (15 MT/h),
which are fed in from raw material storage tanks through hoppers (HP-101 and HP-102). The water
supply includes both Seawater (1,000 m3/h) and Groundwater (2,200 m3/h). In addition, a large
quantity of aqueous feed (98,402 m3/h) is recycled from the Algae Harvesting Section back into the inlet
of the raceway ponds (RP-101). In other words, the feed water (i.e., seawater and groundwater) is only
about 3% of the total water flowing into the raceway pond; it is added in order to make up for
evaporative losses within the ponds and to make up for water lost to the downstream processing steps.

Algae production within the raceway ponds is modeled using a stoichiometric aerobic bio-oxidation unit
procedure (under the menu: Unit Procedures \ Continuous Reaction \ Environmental Reaction \
Stoichiometric \ WM Aerobic Bio-oxidation). The biomass formation parameters are specified on the
Reactions tab of the operation associated with this procedure (Figure 1). In this example, CO2, DAP,
Nitrate, Sulfate, and Water are consumed within the raceway ponds, and Biomass, Oxygen, and Salts are
produced (the stoichiometry for this reaction can be seen at the bottom of Figure 1). Note that the
stoichiometry for the reaction (which can be specified by clicking on the button) must be balanced
on a mass basis (i.e., total mass of reactants = total mass of products). The stoichiometric coefficients
are derived from experimental data. An optimistic reaction extent of 100% was assumed. Nitrate is the
limiting component. This means that 100% of the Nitrate is consumed. Substantial amounts of
unconsumed Sulfate, DAP, and CO2 remain at the completion of the reaction. The excess CO2 is lost to
the atmosphere as part of the Evaporation stream leaving the raceway ponds. This stream also contains
Nitrogen, Oxygen, a small amount of NOx, and a large amount (1,000 MT/h) of water vapor. Note that
some of the CO2 involved in the reaction (22 MT/hr) is produced within the Cogeneration section of this
model and the remainder (41 MT/hr) is piped from a local electric power utility (not included in the
model). Before being fed into the raceway ponds, these CO2-rich streams are combined and sent
through a cooler (HX-101) in order to reduce their temperature to 32 C.

It was assumed that the average residence time of the liquid in the algae ponds is 4 days. This is
specified on the Volumes tab of the dialog window shown in Figure 1. This specification results in 1084
bonds, each having a working volume of around 9,000 m3 and a total volume of around 10,000 m3. The
calculated working volume can be seen on the Volumes tab of the operations dialog.

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Figure 1: The Reactions tab of the aerobic bio-oxidation operation used to represent algae growth

The total volume can be seen by right-clicking on RP-101 and choosing Equipment Data (see Figure 2). A
depth of 0.2 m was assumed for the ponds, resulting in a surface area for each pond of approximately
50,000 m2, or 5 hectares (ha). Consequently, the total surface area of all 1084 ponds is approximately
5,420 ha. This is a massive surface area, equivalent to 15.9 times the size of New York Citys Central
Park, or 0.63 times the size of Manhattan. Thus the algae production facility would need to be located in
a deserted area where there is plenty of cheap land in order for this type of project to be economically

The algae concentration in the ponds is 0.35 g/L. The flowrate of algal biomass exiting the ponds is 34.7
MT/h. Assuming that each pond is operational and productive for 330 days/ yr (or 7920 h/yr), this leads
to annual biomass production of roughly of 275,000 MT. Based on these values, the areal productivity of
the ponds is approximately 50.7 MT/ha-yr. This is consistent with estimates from the literature
regarding the current upper limit of long-term commercial productivity2, although it is expected that this

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areal productivity limit will increase in the future due to scientific and technological innovations. Note
that the productivity is influenced by a variety of factors such as location (including temperature effects
and the amount of annual solar radiation), layout of the production system, algae species, etc.
Furthermore, the optimal pond design depends on factors such as the location and the algae species2.
The productivity is also dependent on the time of year, since this impacts the temperature, magnitude
of daily solar radiation, etc. The constant biomass formation rate of this model represents average
annual performance.

Figure 2: The Equipment Data dialog of RP-101

1.2 Algae Harvesting Section

The purpose of this section is to concentrate the algae and then break it up in order to allow the oils to
be recovered in the subsequent section. The first concentration step takes place in the clarification units
(CL-101), where the algae settles to the bottom of the tanks with the aid of the flocculant that was
added immediately upstream (MX-110). The algae-rich heavy stream which exits the clarification tanks
is then sent to the centrifuge (DC-101), where it is further concentrated from 5% Biomass (dry cell mass)

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to 15% Biomass. The supernatant streams from the Clarification and Centrifugation units are combined
and recycled back to the Raceway Ponds.

The concentrated Biomass stream is sent to the sonicators (HG-101) for cell disruption, which is
represented by the following mass stoichiometry:

100 Biomass 7 Ash + 42.2 Cell Debris + 0.8 NHP + 4.0 PL + 20 Proteins +26 TAG

NHP stands for non-hydratable phospholipids, PL stands for hydratable phospholipids, and TAG is the
triacylglycerol product. The assumed extent of cell disruption is 95%. Consequently, for every 100 kg of
biomass entering the sonicators, 0.95 x 26 = 24.7 kg of TAG is released and available for further
processing downstream.

1.3 Hexane Extraction Section

The mixture of disrupted biomass is sent to a decanter (V-101) where the lipid-rich oil phase (99.8%
TAG) is separated as the light phase and sent to the Degumming section of the process. The heavy phase
leaving the decanter is combined with hexane in a mixing tank (V-102) and. Here the remaining oil
components (NHP, PL, and residual TAG) are extracted from the aqueous phase into the organic phase.
The contents of this tank are then centrifuged (in DC-102) in order to separate the aqueous phase and
the remaining solids from the oil-rich organic phase. The separated solids and bulk aqueous phase are
then sent through a protein extraction unit (GBX-101) in order to recover proteins which can be sold as
animal feed. The rest of the material exiting the protein extraction unit is sent to the Anaerobic
Digestion Section for additional processing.

The oil-rich organic phase which exits centrifuge DC-102 is sent to an evaporator (EV-101). There most of
the hexane is recovered and recycled back to a storage unit (V-103) for reuse within the hexane
extraction tank. A small amount of fresh hexane is added (using MX-104) in order to make up for the
hexane lost during the hexane centrifugation and evaporation steps. Meanwhile, the oil-rich phase
coming off the bottom of the evaporator and the TAG oil phase from the decanter unit are combined
and sent to the Degumming section for further processing.

1.4 Degumming Section

In this section, the lipid rich input stream is heated to 70 C (using HX-103) and transferred into the Citric
Acid Addition tank (R-101). Here citric acid is added in order to convert NHP into PL. The mixture is then
cooled (in HX-104) and sent to a tank (V-104) where wash water is added. The material flowing out of
the tank is then centrifuged (in DS-101) in order to separate the TAG product from the other
components. This results in approximately 8.2 MT/h of TAG product, or 65 MT/yr of product assuming
an annual facility uptime of 330 days/yr. The TAG product could subsequently be processed into other
products such as aviation fuel, naphtha, etc. Such a process is analyzed in Dr. Klein-Marcuschamers
original SuperPro model, which can be downloaded from
http://pathway.soe.uq.edu.au/mediawiki/index.php/Main_Page). Alternatively, TAG can be converted
into biodiesel using a process similar to that analyzed in the BioDiesel example of SuperPro.

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1.5 Anaerobic Digestion Section
Waste streams from the Algae Harvesting, Hexane Extraction, and Degumming sections are sent to the
Anaerobic Digestion section in order to convert the remaining biomass and other organic components
into methane fuel. The combined inlet streams are heated to 30 C using HX-701 prior to digestion in AD-
701. The generated gaseous stream, which is rich in methane, is sent to the cogeneration unit. Most of
the remaining aqueous material could be recycled back to the process to provide additional water and
nutrients to the Algae Pond section.

1.6 Cogeneration Section

Utilities such as cooling water, steam, and electricity play a very important role in this process due to the
massive scale of the facility. The table below, which was extracted from the Excel Custom Report,
displays the requirements associated with the heat transfer agents used by this process.

Heat Transfer Agent kg/yr kg/h

Cooling Water
64,769,811,016 8,178,006
96,738,387 12,214
Steam (Gen)
42,807,234 5,405

The role of the Cogeneration section is to meet the demands of the plant for steam and electric power.
Methane produced in the anaerobic digester is combusted in a boiler (SG-701) and generates high-
pressure steam. The CO2-rich flue gas from the boiler is sent to the Algae Ponds to promote algae
growth, while the high-pressure steam is utilized to generate electricity in a turbogenerator (T-701). The
electricity demand for this process can be viewed by selecting View \ Resource Demand Breakdown \
Power (see Figure 3). This screen shows the Std Power electricity usage associated with the overall
process, the individual sections, and each individual procedure within the model. To see the
instantaneous power demand, change the Time Ref for Demand option at the bottom of this dialog to
hr. This provides the power demand in kWh per h, or kW. In this case, the instantaneous demand is
11,553 kW, or roughly 11.6 MW.

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Figure 3: The Std Power electricity demand (on a per-hour basis)

The rate of electricity produced by this process can be viewed by opening the Steam Expansion
operation dialog associated with the turbogenerator and selecting the Expansion Model tab (Figure 4).
On this dialog, you can see the power generated by each stage of the turbogenerator as well as the
overall electrical power generation (based on the total shaft power and a user-specified efficiency
factor). In this example, the 18 MW turbogenerator creates 16.2 MW of electrical power, which exceeds
the 11.6 MW demand from the process. The excess electricity produced by this process is sold to the

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Figure 4: Electricity production from the turbogenerator

To account for the financial benefit of electricity sold to the grid, a selling price of $0.08/kW-h was
specified. This was accomplished by first clicking the Process Explorer button ( ), selecting the Util
tab in the Process Explorer, and double-clicking the Std Power entry under the Power Types node. The
properties dialog associated with the Std Power entry is shown in Figure 5. There you can see the
purchase and selling prices for electricity within this process. SuperPros cost calculations account for
electricity that is produced and consumed by a process as savings (i.e., avoidance of expenditures for
electricity purchases). Electricity sold to the grid is accounted for as Revenue or Credit.

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Figure 5: The Std Power properties dialog

In addition to producing electricity, the 6.99 MT/h of 5 bar steam exiting the turbogenerator (top
stream) is used to meet the heating needs associated with the evaporator (EV-101), the degumming
heater (HX-103), and the degumming wash tank (V-104) since these three units use a total of only 5.4
MT/h of 152 C steam. To accomplish this heat recovery, a new heating agent called Steam (Gen) was
created (see the Util tab of the Process Explorer). The cost of this heat transfer agent was set as $0.00.
Then Steam (Gen) was selected as the heat transfer agent for the operations within units EV-101, HX-
103, and V-104. The result of these specifications is a reduction in the overall utility usage and
associated utility costs since there is no longer any cost associated with heating EV-101, HX-103, and V-

The cost of utilities was reduced further through virtual heat exchange between the HX-701 Preheater
(P-42) of the anaerobic digester and the HX-101 Flue Gas Cooler (P-8). In this case, all the heat required
by HX-701 is supplied by exchanging heat between HX-101 and HX-701. In addition, some of the cooling
required for HX-101 is met through this match. Virtual heat integration between two units is
accomplished using SuperPros Energy Recovery interface, which allows you to establish relationships

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between operations that require cooling at high temperatures (heat sources) and operations that need
heating at low temperatures (heat sinks). To view the Energy Recovery interface, right-click on a blank
area of the flowsheet and select Energy Recovery. This will display the dialog window shown in Figure 6.
Here you can view the operations of the flowsheet that require cooling (i.e., potential heat sources).
Notice that the first operation in the list (P-8: Cool-1) has an extraordinarily high cooling requirement
(40 million kcal/h) at a high temperature. This operation requires roughly 8,000 MT/h of cooling water.
Also notice that the Recovered checkbox is checked for this operation, and there is a Matching % of
14.89%. This means approximately 15% of the cooling load for the P-8: Cool-1 operation can be met by
exchanging heat between P-8: Cool-1 and P-42: Heat-1. The choice of P-42: Heat-1 as the recipient for
this excess heat was made by clicking on the View/Edit button for that operation (see Figure 7).

Notice that 100% of the heat required by P-42: Heat-1 can be supplied by P-8: Cool-1 (see Figure 7). In
other words, the heat integration between P-8 and P-42 fully eliminates the heating load of P-42 and
reduces by approximately 15% the cooling load of P-8 .

Figure 6: The Energy Recovery dialog

For more information on SuperPro Designers virtual Energy Recovery capabilities, please refer to the
SuperPro manual and the ReadMe file of the BioDiesel example that ships with SuperPro.

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Figure 7: View/Edit the Energy Recovery matches

2 Simulation Results
2.1 Material Balances
This plant produces approximately 65,500 MT of algal oil per year. The quantities of each raw material
needed to produce this amount of oil are displayed in the table below, which shows the material
requirements in MT/yr, MT/h and MT/MT MP (MP = main product, which is algal oil in this case). This
table was extracted from the Excel version of the Materials & Streams report of this example. Reports in
SuperPro are generated through the Reports menu of the main menu bar. The format and contents of
the reports can be customized by selecting Reports \ Options from the main menu bar.

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BULK MATERIALS (Entire Process)
Material MT/yr MT/h MT/MT MP
Air 1,316,174 166.18 20.10
Citric Acid 119 0.02 0.00
CO2 322,073 40.67 4.92
DAP 7,920 1.00 0.12
Flocculant 1,026 0.13 0.02
Hexane 2,372 0.30 0.04
Nitrate 118,800 15.00 1.81
Nitrogen 919,846 116.14 14.05
NOx 7,631 0.96 0.12
Oxygen 42,808 5.41 0.65
Salts 258,392 32.63 3.95
SOx 601 0.08 0.01
Sulfate 21,579 2.73 0.33
Water 26,285,961 3,318.94 401.39
TOTAL 29,305,303 3,700.16 447.50

SuperPros Streams & Mat. Balance report also contains tables which summarize the consumption of
each raw material within each specific section of the process (e.g., Algae Ponds, Hexane Extraction,
Degumming, etc.). In addition, this report provides tables with detailed stream information (e.g.,
flowrate, composition, temperature, pressure, etc.) A small portion of the Stream Details table is shown

Stream Name Nitrate S-105 S-107
Source INPUT P-4 INPUT P-5
Destination P-4 P-3 P-5 P-3
Stream Properties
Activity (U/ml) 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
Temperature (C) 25.00 25.00 25.00 25.00
Pressure (bar) 1.01 1.01 1.01 1.01
Density (g/L) 2105.66 2105.66 1556.86 1556.86
Total Enthalpy (kW-h) 190.70 190.70 8.18 8.18
Specific Enthalpy (kcal/kg) 10.94 10.94 7.04 7.04
Heat Capacity (kcal/kg-C) 0.44 0.44 0.28 0.28
Component Flowrates (MT/h)
DAP 0.00 0.00 1.00 1.00
Nitrate 15.00 15.00 0.00 0.00
TOTAL (MT/h) 15.00 15.00 1.00 1.00
TOTAL (m3/h) 7.12 7.12 0.64 0.64

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2.2 Cost Analysis
SuperPro Designer performs thorough cost analysis and generates three pertinent reports (through the
Reports menu). The table below displays the key economic evaluation figures for this example. This
table was extracted from the Economic Evaluation Report (EER), generated in Excel format. For a facility
of this size (5,420 ha of pond surface area), the total capital investment is roughly $305 million. The
estimated annual operating cost is $112 million, which results in a unit production cost of $1.71/kg of
algal oil. The results calculated for the Return-On-Investment, Payback Time, etc. are based on selling
prices of $1.80/kg of Algal Oil and $180/MT of the Protein for Animal Feed byproduct.


Total Capital Investment 305,344,000 $
Capital Investment Charged to This Project 305,344,000 $
Operating Cost 111,793,000 $/yr
Savings (due to Power Recycled) 11,436,880 $/yr
Savings (due to Heat Recovery) 1,632,497 $/yr
Net Operating Cost 98,723,849 $/yr
Main Revenue 117,876,000 $/yr
Other Revenues 8,727,032 $/yr
Total Revenues 126,603,000 $/yr
Cost Basis Annual Rate 65,486,691 kg MP/yr
Unit Production Cost 1.71 $/kg MP
Net Unit Production Cost 1.51 $/kg MP
Unit Production Revenue 1.93 $/kg MP
Gross Margin 22.02 %
Return On Investment 14.41 %
Payback Time 6.94 years
IRR (After Taxes) 8.20 %
NPV (at 10.0% Interest) 4,119,000 $
MP = Total Flow of Stream 'Algal Oil'

The EER also provides a summary of the magnitude of each component of the annual operating cost, as
shown in Figure 8. To automatically include charts such as this one in SuperPros reports, select Reports
\ Options and check the Include Charts checkbox (lower right corner of the dialog). In this example, the
facility-dependent cost is the greatest contributor to the annual operating cost, followed by raw
materials and utilities. The facility-dependent cost is calculated based on estimates of depreciation,
maintenance, and miscellaneous factory expenses.

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Figure 8: Annual operating costs breakdown

The economic results in the table and figure above were calculated based upon a set of default values
and user specifications entered into the model. The parameters which impact the economic results can
be classified into the following categories:

1) Information associated with individual operations and streams. This includes the unit costs and
quantities of each raw material, the disposal costs and amounts of relevant waste products, the
unit costs and hourly requirements for various labor types, the unit costs and amounts of
various utilities, etc. The selling prices and quantities of the products are also taken into account
for certain calculations.
2) Equipment-related information. This includes the capital and operating costs for each
equipment unit (e.g., purchase cost, installation, maintenance, consumables, etc).
3) Section-Related information. This includes cost factors that are used to determine the capital
and operating costs for each section of the process.
4) Process-related information. This includes economic evaluation parameters that are specified at
the process level, such as time valuation, financing, production level and additional operating
cost information for the entire project.

Each of these cost categories are described in greater detail below:

2.2.1 Operation and stream costs and revenues

Resource requirements associated with materials are determined based on the mass and composition
specifications for each of the flowsheets input streams. To determine material costs, the annual
amounts of each raw material are calculated by SuperPro and multiplied by the unit costs specified by

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the user on the Economics tab of each material. The material costs for this example are shown in the
table below.


Annual Annual Cost
Bulk Material Cost %
Amount ($)
Citric Acid 1.07 118,800 kg 127,116 0.43
DAP 70.00 7,920 MT 554,400 1.85
Flocculant 1.00 1,025,571 kg 1,025,571 3.43
Hexane 2.00 2,372,040 kg 4,744,080 15.86
Nitrate 50.00 118,800 MT 5,940,000 19.86
Sulfate 0.35 139,392 kg 48,787 0.16
Water 1.00 17,469,286 m3(STP) 17,469,286 58.41
TOTAL 29,909,272 100.00

Other costs and revenues associated with streams are determined based upon specifications in the
Stream Classification dialog (Figure 9). This dialog can be accessed by selecting Stream Classification on
the Tasks menu. From this dialog you may specify the following:

Selling prices for output streams classified as revenue or credit

Treatment/disposal costs for output streams classified as one of the waste types (solid waste,
aqueous waste, organic waste or emission)

Furthermore, for an input stream classified as a raw material, a purchasing price is automatically
calculated by SuperPro based on the streams composition and the purchasing prices of its ingredients.

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Figure 9: Stream Classification dialog

In the lower right corner of Figure 9, a Main Product/Revenue stream and its flow basis can be specified
(note that the drop-down list for the Main Product will only contain input and output streams that are
classified as Revenue streams). Annual revenues for the process are then calculated based on the unit
prices and quantities of all revenue streams associated with the process. The table below shows the
various revenue sources (and savings) associated with this example:

Algal Oil (Main Revenue) 117,876,044 $/yr
Protein for Animal Feed (Revenue) 7,611,730 $/yr
Std Power(Revenue) 1,115,302 $/yr
Std Power(Savings) 11,436,880 $/yr
Steam(Savings) 1,160,827 $/yr
Cooling Water(Savings) 471,670 $/yr
Total Revenues 126,603,051 $/yr
Total Savings 13,069,378 $/yr
Note: Revenues in the table above are related to products (including power) that are sold. Savings in
this table are related to avoidance of expenses due to energy integration and in-process electric power
generation and use.

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Labor requirements are specified on the Labor, etc. tab of an operations dialog window. The total
requirement for each resource in each operation in the process is then multiplied by its respective unit
cost to compute the associated operating costs. The annual labor requirements and costs associated
with this process are shown in the table below.


Unit Cost Annual Amount Annual Cost
Labor Type %
($/h) (h) ($)
Operator 25.00 196,703 4,917,586 89.0
Supervisor 35.00 17,356 607,467 11.0
TOTAL 214,060 5,525,053 100.0

2.2.2 Equipment Costs

The purchase cost of equipment is an important parameter that affects the direct fixed capital
investment of a project and indirectly affects the annual operating cost. SuperPro is equipped with
correlations for estimating the purchase cost of equipment based on its type and size. However, the
built-in correlations for most types of equipment are more suitable for fine chemical and pharmaceutical
types of facilities than for large-scale algae production plants. For these types of processes, we advise
users to enter their own equipment cost data for better accuracy. User-defined costs may either be
specified for equipment of a certain size (e.g., $164,000 per raceway pond) or as a User-Defined Cost
Model (UDCM). Figure 10 displays the Purchase Cost tab of the equipment data dialog of the Raceway
Pond unit procedure. This tab can be accessed by right clicking on the units icon, selecting Equipment
Data, and then switching to the Purchase Cost tab. In this case, a UDCM has been chosen for the
equipment cost estimate. The UDCM allows a user to specify a cost vs. size correlation that is used by
the tool to estimate the cost of a piece of equipment. Data are entered in the form of the power-law
equation: C = Co x (Q/Qo)a where Co is a reference cost, Qo is a reference size, and a is an exponent
(usually less than 1). The user must also provide a range of size values where a given cost correlation is
valid. In this example, the specifications ensure that for all ponds up to a maximum volume of 10,000
m3, the capital cost will be $25,000 x (PondVolume/1000)0.8. Note that this value is also adjusted for
inflation based on the Year of Analysis and the Inflation rate specified at the project level in the
Economic Evaluation Parameters dialog (you can right-click on the flowsheet to bring up its context
menu and select Economic Evaluation Parameters to modify these values.) Also note that it is possible to
store the UDCM information associated with each of your equipment types in the User database for
future reuse. Detailed information on how to do this is provided in the ReadMe file of the Lysine
example that ships with SuperPro Designer.

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Figure 10: Equipment Purchase Cost tab and User Defined Cost Model parameters

After the base purchase cost for the equipment is estimated, there are several adjustment parameters
that are applied to it. These parameters (such as material of construction, installation factor, annual
maintenance cost, depreciation, number of standby units, etc.) affect the total purchase cost of the
equipment, the direct fixed capital, the facility operating cost, and other economic results. The
equipment adjustment parameters may be accessed on the Adjustments tab of the equipment data
dialog. Furthermore, costs associated with consumables (i.e., items that are used by the equipment unit
for one or more batches before being disposed) can be specified on the Consumables tab.

Using the cost models for each equipment unit and their respective cost adjustments, the total
equipment cost is calculated based upon the quantity of each equipment item that is required (see table
below). Notice that roughly 80% of the total equipment cost is associated with the algae ponds (RP-101)
due to the very large number of ponds required.


Standby/ Name Description Unit Cost ($) Cost ($)

1/0/0 HP-101 Hopper

16,000 16,000
Vessel Volume = 1633.99 L
1/0/0 HP-102 Hopper
5,000 5,000

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Vessel Volume = 108.93 L
1/0/0 P-101 Centrifugal Pump
51,000 51,000
Pump Power = 81.04 kW
1/0/0 P-102 Centrifugal Pump
107,000 107,000
Pump Power = 181.52 kW
5/0/0 HX-101 Heat Exchanger
151,000 755,000
Area = 689.24 m2
1084 / 0 / 0 RP-101 Aeration Basin
164,000 177,776,000
Volume = 9997.33 m3
1/0/0 V-102 Blending Tank
548,000 548,000
Volume = 1767.3 m3
1/0/0 DC-102 Decanter Centrifuge
272,000 272,000
Throughput = 265.1 m3/h
1/0/0 EV-101 Evaporator
42,000 42,000
Transfer Area = 17.36 m2
1/0/0 V-103 Flat Bottom Tank
20,000 20,000
Volume = 13.7 m3
1/0/0 HX-103 Heat Exchanger
28,000 28,000
Area = 7.14 m2
1/0/0 R-101 Stirred Reactor
14,000 14,000
Volume = 4804.49 L
1/0/0 HX-104 Heat Exchanger
42,000 42,000
Area = 56.72 m2
1/0/0 V-104 Blending Tank
32,000 32,000
Volume = 16.7 m3
1/0/0 DS-101 Disk-Stack Centrifuge
115,000 115,000
Throughput = 15 m3/h
1/0/0 HX-701 Heat Exchanger
44,000 44,000
Area = 14.02 m2
1/0/0 AD-701 Anaerobic Digester
8,002,000 8,002,000
Volume = 76893.19 m3
1/0/0 SG-701 Steam Generator
1,320,000 1,320,000
Throughput = 140 MT/h
1/0/0 T-701 Multi-Stage Steam Turbine
3,212,000 3,212,000

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Shaft Power = 18 MW

1/0/0 DC-101 Decanter Centrifuge

272,000 272,000
Throughput = 691.1 m3/h
5/0/0 HG-101 Homogenizer
167,000 835,000
Throughput = 45.6 m3/h
31 / 0 / 0 CL-101 Clarifier
1,090,000 33,790,000
Surface Area = 2434 m2
1/0/0 V-101 Decanter Tank
823,000 823,000
Volume = 204 m3

2.2.3 Section-related costs:

In SuperPro Designer, the direct fixed capital (DFC) contributions are estimated for each individual
section of a process. Each sections DFC is calculated as the sum of direct, indirect, and miscellaneous
costs associated with that sections capital investment. The direct costs include elements that are
directly related to an investment, such as the cost of equipment, process piping, instrumentation,
buildings, facilities, etc. The indirect costs include elements that are indirectly related to an investment,
such as the costs of engineering and construction. Additional costs such as the contractors fee and
contingencies are included in miscellaneous costs. By default, the DFC is estimated based on the
purchase costs of all major process equipment multiplied by cost factors that are applied to the
purchase costs. The cost factors include installation factors which are equipment-specific, as well as
other factors specified at the section level. The default section-level factors can be edited through the
DFC tab of a sections Capital Investment Dialog. This may be accessed by first selecting the desired
section in the Section Name drop-down list on the Section toolbar and then clicking the Section
Capital Cost Adjustments button ( ) on the same toolbar. The capital cost adjustments dialog for the
Algae Ponds section is shown in Figure 11. Note that the default process-section-specific cost factors for
piping, instrumentation, buildings, etc., are more appropriate for high-value chemical and biochemical
plants and they will greatly overestimate the total capital cost associated with an algae production
facility. In order to more-accurately estimate the total DFC of the facility in this example, we increased
the equipment-specific installation factors and zeroed all the section specific multipliers. The installation
cost factors are assigned to each individual equipment unit through the Adjustments tab of each of their
Equipment Data dialogs. For instance, the installation cost factor for centrifuge DC-101 is shown in
Figure 12. In this case, the installation cost associated with the centrifuge is set to be equal to two times
its purchase cost (the default is 0.5). Therefore the total DFC associated with the centrifuge is three
times its purchase cost. The increased installation cost factor accounts for the costs of foundation,
piping, instrumentation, insulation, buildings, engineering costs, etc. associated with the centrifuge. For

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units that are constructed on-site, the installation factor is much smaller. For instance, the installation
factor for the Raceway Ponds is only 0.2.

Figure 11: Capital Cost Adjustments: DFC tab

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Figure 12: Capital Cost Adjustments: DFC tab

In addition to the Section-level capital cost specifications, there are also specifications at the Section
level related to operating costs. These can be accessed by first selecting the desired section in the
Section Name drop-down list box that is available on the Section toolbar and then clicking the Section
Operating Cost Adjustments button ( ) on the same toolbar. Here you can specify how various
operating costs should be calculated for each section. For instance, the specifications that are used to
calculate the facility-related annual operating costs are shown in Figure 13. Like the Capital Cost
Adjustments dialog, the Operating Cost Adjustments dialog provides a variety of ways to have costs
calculated for various aspects of the process. In this case, the facility-related operating costs are
calculated based on depreciation, maintenance, and miscellaneous costs. Other tabs of this dialog
provide options for calculating the annual costs related to labor, lab/QC/QA expenses, utilities, and
miscellaneous expenses (e.g., ongoing R&D, process validation, etc.)

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Figure 13: Operating Cost Adjustments dialog for the Algae Ponds section

2.2.4 Process-level cost parameters

To view or modify the project level cost parameters, click on an empty area of the flowsheet and then
select Economic Evaluation Parameters. This will bring up the dialog shown in Figure 14. Here you can
specify parameters which impact the economic calculations such as the year of analysis, construction
period, inflation rate, etc. On the other tabs of this dialog, you can specify information related to

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financing of the project and depreciation, production rate and product failure rate, and expenses related
to taxes, sales/marketing, and royalties.

Figure 14: Economic evaluation parameters for the project

Based on the capital and operating cost specifications, SuperPro estimates the total fixed capital, annual
operating cost, profitability (including margin, return on investment, and payback time), cash flow
calculation results, etc. Various economic results may then be viewed from the Executive Summary
(View \ Executive Summary), the Economic Evaluation Report (Reports \ Economic Evaluation), the
Itemized Cost Report (Reports \ Itemized Cost), and the Cash Flow Analysis Report (Reports \ Cash Flow
Analysis). The tables shown previously in this section were all extracted from the Economic Evaluation

NOTE: Most of the multipliers used in cost analysis can be stored in the User Database of SuperPro and
retrieved for future work on similar projects. This facilitates standardization and improves the accuracy
of cost estimation. For information on how to take advantage of the database capabilities of SuperPro,
please consult the SynPharmDB document in the EXAMPLES \ SYNPHARM subdirectory of the
SuperPro installation. Please refer to the SuperPro Designer Help facility or manual for more detailed
information on economic analysis using SuperPro.

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3 Final Thoughts on Algae as a Fuel Source
According to the United States Energy Information Administration, 134.5 billion gallons of gasoline were
consumed in the U.S. in 20133. In addition, the annual usage of jet fuel in the U.S. was 20.2 billion
gallons in 20094, and U.S. diesel usage was approximately 50 billion gallons per year in 2006.5 Based on
these numbers, the densities of each fuel, assumed conversion ratios from TAG to various products, and
the areal productivity calculated from this model, the total landmass required to replace all US fossil fuel
consumption with algae-derived fuel may be estimated. The results are shown in the table below.

Annual Demand Annual TAG Equivalent Total Land % of US

(Gal) Demand (MT) (TAG : Fuel) Required (ha) Land Mass
Gasoline 134,500,000,000 371,630,225 1 : 0.5 61,965,052 7.7%
Fuel 20,200,000,000 61,165,600 1 : 0.5 10,198,658 1.3%
Diesel 50,000,000,000 165,593,750 1:1 13,805,424 1.7%

As this table demonstrates, current US transportation fuel demands could be met through conversion of
algae products into fuel. However, doing so would require extremely large facilities. Furthermore, based
on the assumptions within this model, replacing current production of these three fuel types would
require roughly 10.7% of the entire continental US land mass (i.e., roughly 85 million ha of the 808
million ha land mass of the continental US excluding Alaska and Hawaii). However, research into
methods of maximizing algae productivity is ongoing, and the estimates for future algae productivity
vary tremendously from one source to another. For instance, the US Department of Energy estimates
that it may be possible to produce enough fuel from algae to replace all petroleum fuel in the United
States by using only 0.42% of the US land mass, assuming substantial gains in algae productivity in the
future. This is less than 15% of the area of corn grown in the US.6

R.H. Wijffels et al., Potential of industrial biotechnology with cyanobacteria and eukaryotic microalgae,
Current Opinion in Biotechnology (2013), vol. 24. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.copbio.2013.04.004.
G2 ALGAL paper: P.M. Slegers, et al., Scenario evaluation of open pond microalgae production, Algal
Research (2013), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.algal.2013.05.001.

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