Economic comparison of open pond raceways to photo bio-reactors for profitable production of algae for transportation fuels in the Southwest Academic Article uri icon


  • As energy prices climb there is an increasing interest in alternative, renewable energy sources. One possible source of renewable bio-fuel is algae. This research uses a multi-year, Monte Carlo financial feasibility model to estimate the costs of production and chance of economic success for commercial size algal biofuel facilities in the Southwest. Capital and operating costs and productivity information from Davis et al. were used to develop parameters to define and simulate two types of algae production systems; open pond and photo-bioreactor (PBR).The financial feasibility of PBRs is substantially lower than for open ponds. In the base case, average total costs of production for lipids, including financial costs, were $12.73/gal and $31.61/gal for open ponds and PBRs, respectively. The chance of economic success for the base situation was zero for both open ponds and PBRs. The financial feasibility analysis showed that the only way to achieve a 95% probability of economic success in the PBR system was to reduce CAPEX by 80% or more and OPEX by 90% or more. For the open pond system there were several options that could return a 95% or greater chance of economic success, for example, reducing CAPEX by 60% and OPEX by 90%. 2012 Elsevier B.V.

published proceedings


altmetric score

  • 5.5

author list (cited authors)

  • Richardson, J. W., Johnson, M. D., & Outlaw, J. L.

citation count

  • 244

complete list of authors

  • Richardson, James W||Johnson, Mynah D||Outlaw, Joe L

publication date

  • May 2012