Net primary productivity, biofuel production and CO2 emissions reduction potential of Ulva sp. (Chlorophyta) biomass in a coastal area of the Eastern Mediterranean

Alexander Chemodanov, Gabriel Jinjikhashvily, Oz Habiby, Alexander Liberzon, Alvaro Israel, Zohar Yakhini, Alexander Golberg*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Offshore grown macroalgae biomass could provide a sustainable feedstock for biorefineries. However, tools to assess its potential for producing biofuels, food and chemicals are limited. In this work, we determined the net annual primary productivity (NPP) for Ulva sp. (Chlorophyta), using a single layer cultivation in a shallow, coastal site in Israel. We also evaluated the implied potential bioethanol production under literature based conversion rates. Overall, the daily growth rate of Ulva sp. was 4.5 ± 1.1%, corresponding to an annual average productivity of 5.8 ± 1.5 gDW m−2 day−1. In comparison, laboratory experiments showed that under nutrients saturation conditions Ulva sp. daily growth rate achieved 33 ± 6%. The average NPP of Ulva sp. offshore was 838 ± 201 g C m−2 year−1, which is higher than the global average of 290 g C m−2 year−1 NPP estimated for terrestrial biomass in the Middle East. These results position Ulva sp. at the high end of potential crops for bioenergy under the prevailing conditions of the Eastern Mediterranean Sea. We found that with 90% confidence, with the respect to the conversion distribution, the annual ethanol production from Ulva sp. biomass, grown in a layer reactor is 229.5 g ethanol m−2 year−1.This translates to an energy density of 5.74 MJ m−2 year−1 and power density of 0.18 W m−2. Growth intensification, to the rates observed at the laboratory conditions, with currently reported conversion yields, could increase, with 90% confidence, the annual ethanol production density of Ulva sp. to 1735 g ethanol m−2 year−1, which translates to an energy density of 43.5 MJ m−2 year−1 and a power density 1.36 W m−2. Based on the measured NPP, we estimated the size of offshore area allocation required to provide biomass for bioethanol sufficient to replace 5–100% of oil used in transportation in Israel. We also performed a sensitivity analysis on the biomass productivity, national CO2 emissions reduction, ethanol potential, feedstock costs and sizes of the required allocated areas.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1497-1507
Number of pages11
JournalEnergy Conversion and Management
StatePublished - 2017


FundersFunder number
Israel Ministry of Energy Infrastructures and Water Resources
Israel Ministry of Health Fund for Food Security
Israel Ministry of Science and TAU Center for Innovation in Transportation


    • Bioethanol
    • Biofuel
    • Biorefinery
    • Macroalgae
    • Net primary productivity
    • Offshore production
    • Seaweed


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