Microalgae are a potential means of recycling CO2 from industrial point sources. With this in mind, a novel photobioreactor (PBR) was designed and deployed at a coal-fired power plant. To ascertain the feasibility of using waste heat from the power plant to heat algae cultures during cold periods, two heat transfer models were constructed to quantify PBR cooling times. The first, which was based on tabulated data, material properties and the physical orientation of the PBR tubes, yielded a range of heat transfer coefficients of 19–64 W m−2 K−1 for the PBR at wind speeds of 1–10 m s−1. The second model was based on data collected from the PBR and gave an overall heat transfer coefficient of 24.8 W m−2 K−1. Energy penalties associated with waste heat utilization were found to incur an 18%–103% increase in energy consumption, resulting in a 22%–70% reduction in CO2 capture for the scenarios considered. A techno-economic analysis showed that the cost of heat integration equipment increased capital expenditures (CAPEX) by a factor of nine and increased biomass production costs by a factor of three. Although the scenario is thermodynamically feasible, the increase in CAPEX incurs an increase in biomass production cost that is economically untenable.

Document Type


Publication Date


Notes/Citation Information

Published in Energies, v. 12, issue 13, 2634, p. 1-18.

© 2019 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.

This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)


Funding Information

This work was supported by the United States Department of Energy (award no. DE-FE0026396), the Kentucky Department of Energy Development and Independence, Duke Energy, and the University of Kentucky.