5
Environmental Effects

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As with production and use of any fuels, aspects of biofuel production and use have benefits and adverse effects. This chapter discusses potential environmental effects from the production and use of algal biofuels, the potential influence of perceived or actual impacts on societal acceptance, and some of the health impacts potentially emanating from the specific environmental effects. Potential environmental effects discussed in this chapter include those resulting from land-use changes, water quality, net greenhousegas (GHG) emissions, air quality, biodiversity, waste generation, and effects from genetically engineered algae (with an emphasis on new or enhanced traits).



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5 Environmental Effects System System System Inputs Processes Outputs Potential Environmental Effects A s with production and use of any fuels, aspects of biofuel production and use have benefits and adverse effects. This chapter discusses potential environmental effects from the production and use of algal biofuels, the potential influence of perceived or actual impacts on societal acceptance, and some of the health impacts potentially ema- nating from the specific environmental effects. Potential environmental effects discussed in this chapter include those resulting from land-use changes, water quality, net greenhouse- gas (GHG) emissions, air quality, biodiversity, waste generation, and effects from geneti- cally engineered algae (with an emphasis on new or enhanced traits). 139

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140 SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT OF ALGAL BIOFUELS Where possible, this chapter discusses the potential for algal biofuels to improve as- pects of sustainability compared to petroleum-based fuels and other biofuels and the po- tential for mitigating negative effects along the life cycle of algal biofuel. Environmental indicators of sustainability and data to be collected to assess sustainability are suggested. In some environments and biofuel management systems, metrics for assessing environmental performance are easy to measure and adequate baseline data are available, but that is not the case in all systems. A number of potential environmental concerns are evident, and if the concerns are not addressed they could become significant risks under large-scale deployment. As in any other industrial or agricultural enterprise, once they are recognized, such risks can be man- aged by standards or regulations so that industry is required to reduce effects to acceptable levels. For the sake of comprehensiveness, a number of potential environmental risks are mentioned in this chapter, but some are less likely to occur than others. Some of the environ- mental risks might require exploratory assessment and subsequent monitoring to ensure that they do not become sustainability concerns if algal biofuel production is scaled up. 5.1 WATER QUALITY Producing algal biofuels could improve or harm water quality depending on the re- source input and management used in algae cultivation, weather events, integrity of infra- structure, and processing of spent water. Water-quality concerns associated with commer- cial-scale production of algal biofuels, if sufficient culture waters are released to natural environments, include eutrophication of waters, contamination of groundwater, and sali- nization of water sources. Potential water-quality benefits are reduced runoff of herbicides and insecticides compared to corn-grain ethanol or soybean-based biodiesel because of their reduced use, and reduced eutrophication if there are no releases of culture water or if algae are used as a means to remove nutrients from municipal waste, confined animal feeding operations, and other liquid wastes. Water-quality effects will depend on the nutri- ent content of the algal culture medium; whether feedstock production systems are sealed, artificially lined, or clay lined; and the likelihood of extreme precipitation events. Leakage of culture fluid to groundwater or surface water could occur if the integrity of the pond or trough system is compromised, if flooding occurs, or if spills occur during transfers of fluid during process stages or waste removal, but most of these events could be avoided with proper management. 5.1.1 Releases of Culture and Process Water As discussed in Chapter 4, the water for algae cultivation is likely to be reclaimed and reused to reduce the water requirement and consumptive water use. The liquid effluent also can be recycled from anaerobic digestion of lipid-extracted algae to produce biogas (Davis et al., 2011). If harvest water is to be released instead of recycled, it or effluent from anaerobic digestion would contain nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P), the concentrations of which depend on the nitrogen and phosphorus taken up by the harvested algal biomass (Sturm and Lamer, 2011). Released waters could be more saline than receiving waters, particularly if water from saline aquifers is used for algae cultivation. Such point-source discharge will be regulated by the Clean Water Act, and a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit would have to be obtained to operate the algae cultivation facili- ties (EPA, 2011a). However, permit violation has been observed in some biofuel refineries

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ENVIRONMENTAL EFFECTS 141 that use terrestrial crops as feedstock (Beeman, 2007; Smith, 2008; EPA, 2009b; Buntjer, 2010; Meersman, 2010; O'Sullivan, 2010). Regulation and compliance assurance would address concerns about release of harvest water. The potential for accidental release of cultivation water exists; for example, clay or plas- tic liners could be breached through normal weathering or from extreme weather events, some of which are predictable. High precipitation or winds could lead to overtopping of ponds or above-grade raceways. In those cases, the entire contents of algal cultures could be lost to surface runoff and leaching to surface water or groundwater. Siting in areas prone to tornadoes, hurricanes, or earthquakes would increase the likelihood of accidental releases. However, producers are likely to take preventive measures when extreme weather events are forecasted, and they would put effort into preventing accidental releases of cultivation water because such events could adversely affect their profit margin. 5.1.2 Eutrophication 5.1.2.1 Potential Environmental Effects Large-scale algae cultivation requires the provision of large quantities of nutrients, especially nitrogen and phosphorus, to ensure high yield (see section Nutrients in Chapter 4). Even where nitrogen and phosphorus are not in oversupply, the total nutrient concen- trations in algal biomass will be high. Although accidental release of cultivation water into surface water and soil is unlikely, such an event could lead to eutrophication of downstream freshwater and marine ecosystems, depending on the proximity of algal ponds to surface and groundwater sources. Eutrophication occurs when a body of water receives high concentrations of inorganic nutrients, particularly nitrogen and phosphorus, stimulating algal growth and resulting in excessive algal biomass. As the algae die off and decompose, high levels of organic matter and the decomposition processes deplete oxygen in the water and result in anoxic conditions (Smith, 2003; Breitburg et al., 2009; Rabalais et al., 2009; Smith and Schindler, 2009). In some cases, eutrophication-induced changes could be difficult or impossible to reverse if alternative stable states can occur in the affected ecosystem (Scheffer et al., 2001; Carpenter, 2005). Eutrophication effects have been well studied, and they depend on the nutrient load- ings to the receiving waters and the volume and residence time of water of these systems (Smith et al., 1999; Smith, 2003). High nutrient loading could lead to anoxia in the deep cool portion of lakes or in hypoxia in the receiving water bodies. Potential biotic effects of eutro- phication include changes in algal density and in the structure and biomass of the broader ecological community (Scheffer et al., 1997; Reynolds et al., 2002; Smayda and Reynolds, 2003). Fish yield is affected by phytoplankton1 biomass and by the nutrient ratios in the edibility of phytoplankton (Oglesby, 1977; Bachmann et al., 1996). Nutrient levels play a key role in determining the productivity and structure of the primary producing community in estuaries and coastal marine waters (Deegan et al., 2002; Smith, 2006) and by extension, the productivity and structure of higher trophic levels. Nutrient-enriched shallow marine systems tend to have a reduced seagrass community (Burkholder et al., 1992; Hauxwell et al., 2003) because elevated nitrogen concentrations and loadings adversely affect seagrass (Efroymson et al., 2007 and references cited therein). 1A collection of microscopic photosynthetic organisms that float or drift in fresh water or sea water.

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142 SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT OF ALGAL BIOFUELS In high-nitrate environments, seagrasses can be shaded by epiphytic algae and macroalgae (Drake et al., 2003) or sometimes by phytoplankton blooms (Nixon et al., 2001). Seagrasses affect the entire estuarine food web because they stabilize sediments; serve as habitats and temporary nurseries for fish and shellfish; are sources of food for fish, waterfowl, benthic invertebrates, or manatees; and provide refuges from predation. Eutrophication and other nutrient-related effects could be a concern for cultivation of microalgae or macroalgae in large suspended offshore enclosures (for example, Honkanen and Helminen, 2000). Eutrophication also has implications for social acceptability (Codd, 2000), for example, because of eutrophication-related aesthetic concerns (Grant, 2010), and aesthetics can affect the recreational value of water bodies. It is unknown whether rare releases of culture water or the physical appearance of open ponds for algae cultivation could have negative effects on the social acceptability of algal biofuels. 5.1.2.2 Opportunities for Mitigation Quantifying water losses from raceways, ponds, or photobioreactors would indicate whether repairs of small leaks are necessary. These culture systems can be designed and tested to withstand natural disasters that are possible during the lifetime of the infrastruc- ture. In coastal locations, for example, facility and infrastructure designs would need to consider the probabilities that hurricane winds and water surges could reach the algae cul- tivation site (Guikema, 2009). Mitigation plans for accidental releases would be desirable. Open-pond algae cultivation also can be sited in locations that are not prone to hurricanes or away from lakes and streams. With respect to harvest water, engineering solutions can maximize recycling. 5.1.3 Waterborne Toxicants 5.1.3.1 Potential Environmental Effects Some compounds present in algal ponds or photobioreactors could be toxic to humans or other organisms depending on exposure levels. Herbicides often are added to open systems to prevent growth of macrophytes and for selective control of algae (NALMS, 2004), but their application likely would be regulated as in the case of agriculture. If waste- water or oil well-produced water (Shpiner et al., 2009) is used as a water source for algae cultivation, heavy metals could be present. Wastewater could include industrial effluent (Chinnasamy et al., 2010) and municipal wastewater that has undergone various levels of treatment (Wang et al., 2010). The composition and amount of toxicants vary by the type of wastewater. Produced water (water contained in oil and gas reservoirs that is produced in conjunction with the fossil fuel) may contain high levels of organic compounds, oil and grease, boron, and ammonia (NH3) (Drewes et al., 2009). Many algal species including cyanobacteria, diatoms, and chlorophytes can bioconcentrate heavy metals (Watras and Bloom, 1992; Vymazal, 1995; Mathews and Fisher, 2008). Mercury could be introduced into feedstock production waters if unscrubbed flue gas from coal-fired power plants is used as a carbon dioxide (CO2) source (O'Dowd et al., 2006). Therefore, potential risks from us- ing each type of produced water need to be identified so that adequate containment and mitigation measures can be implemented in cultivation and processing. Waterborne toxicants (toxic substances made or introduced into the environment anthropogenically, not including algal toxins) potentially pose risk to humans or other

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ENVIRONMENTAL EFFECTS 143 animals if exposures occur. Occupational exposures could be significant, especially during the harvesting phase. Thus, monitoring of toxic compounds in the culture media is impor- tant. Potential toxicity exposure to animals through drinking is discussed in the section on terrestrial biodiversity. The release of culture waters to natural environments could pose other risks to animal consumers. Toxic concentrations and doses for various chemicals are available in the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Integrated Risk Information Sys- tem database for humans (EPA, 2012), in Suter and Tsao (1996) for aquatic biota, in Sample et al. (1996) for terrestrial wildlife, and in other government and independent compilations. Cultivation of algae in wastewater may require special handling and means of containment. Monitoring for the presence of toxicants or pathogens might be necessary to ensure the quality of the culture water. 5.1.3.2 Opportunities for Mitigation Monitoring of metals and other compounds in water sources, nutrient sources, and culture media in demonstration facilities would provide information about whether wa- terborne toxicants pose a significant concern. If so, technical solutions for removing wa- terborne toxicants would be needed to prevent occupational and ecological exposures. Mercury is removed from flue gas in some configurations of coal-fired electric-generating units (EPA, 2010). However, mercury removal is ineffective for certain types of coal and plant configurations (NETL, 2011). Contaminants in flue gas could place another constraint on the type of coal-fired electricity facilities that would be suitable for providing CO2 for algae cultivation (see sections Estimated Land Requirements and Estimated Nutrient Re- quirements in Chapter 4). 5.1.4 Groundwater Pollution 5.1.4.1 Potential Environmental Effects Open ponds may not be suitable for many soil types without using lining, and a thor- ough review of potential effects on surface water and groundwater quality would have to be conducted if clay-lined ponds are to be used. If outdoor ponds are poorly lined or the lining fails as a result of wear, then seepage of the pond water into the local groundwater system could occur. Clays that are compacted and graded have structural integrity that can be comparable to synthetic liners (Boyd, 1995). However, integrity can be compromised by poor construction. Nitrate leaching has been observed below structured clay soils (White et al., 1983), but the qualitative applicability of these results to clay-lined algal ponds is unknown. Local terrestrial vegetation might take up some of the culture media released through seepage. In some areas, if open ponds contain high concentrations of dissolved inorganic nitrate, seepage may contribute to concerns related to nitrate poisoning if the groundwater is used for drinking by livestock or humans. Withdrawal of freshwater adjacent to briny aquifers or injection of saline wastewater into the ground could result in salinization of groundwater if fresh water and briny aqui- fers are not well separated. Salinization of groundwater is a potential problem for some agricultural lands where irrigation is prevalent (Schoups et al., 2005). However, one of the key advantages of algal biofuel is that the feedstock could be produced on nonarable land (Ryan, 2009; Assmann et al., 2011), so salinization of agricultural lands as a result of fresh- water withdrawal for algae cultivation is not likely.

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144 SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT OF ALGAL BIOFUELS 5.1.4.2 Opportunities for Mitigation Using sealed algal cultivation systems would practically eliminate the potential for leakage, barring catastrophic breaches. Where open systems are used, technologies (such as the development of impermeable, long-lived liner systems) and regional solutions for minimizing nutrient leakage could be deployed, and regulations to minimize leakage could be developed. For example, Phyco BioSciences uses a trough system that has a lightweight, fabricated liner. The liner is expected to eliminate leakage or minimize percolation to less than 0.01 percent (Cloud, 2011). Potential preventive measures might include specifications for soil type, combined with defined values for the minimum depth from the pond bot- tom to groundwater. Moreover, local regulations likely require lined ponds, which would reduce the probability of leakage of waters but contribute to capital costs and lead to tem- porary system closures when the liners are replaced because of wear or failure. Measures to prevent inadvertent discharge of water (for example, overflow corridors or basins) during extreme weather events would be helpful in preventing water pollution. 5.1.5 Wastewater Treatment Wastewaters derived from municipal, agricultural, and industrial activities potentially could be used for cultivating algal feedstocks either in open ponds or in photobioreactors for algal biofuels and could provide an environmental benefit. Microalgae have been used in wastewater treatment for a long time (Oswald et al., 1957), where they provide photo- synthetically produced oxygen for the bacterial breakdown of organic compounds present in the waste (Benemann, 2008). Microalgae have been shown to be effective for wastewater treatment in diverse systems including oxidation (stabilization) ponds and shallow race- way systems and using both phytoplankton and periphyton (Green et al., 1995; Hoffmann, 1998; Pittman et al., 2011; Sandefur et al., 2011). High rate algal ponds (HRAPs), which are shallow, open raceway ponds used for treating municipal, industrial, and agricultural wastewater, combine heterotrophic bacterial and photosynthetic algal processes (Park et al., 2011). The ponds allow the growth of high-standing crops of algae, which remove nitrogen and phosphorus from the wastewater (Sturm et al., 2012). The concept of adapting HRAPs for the purpose of biofuel production was proposed more than five decades ago (Oswald and Golueke, 1960). Park et al. (2011) reviewed the potential benefits and opportunities of using HRAPs for wastewater treatment and harvesting the algae for energy or fuel produc- tion. The feasibility and scale of such systems will be determined by the amount of waste- water, the availability of land near the facilities generating the wastewater and produced water, and the climatic conditions of the region. (See also Chapter 4.) If wastewater is used, the wastewater treatment rate and the harvesting schedule would determine the maximum volume of ponds or photobioreactors. A major goal of wastewater treatment is removal of nitrogen and phosphorus (Pittman et al., 2011). In conventional treatment systems, phosphorus is especially difficult to remove (Pittman et al., 2011). In advanced wastewater treatment, phosphorus typically is either chemically precipitated using aluminum- or iron-based coagulants to form an insoluble solid, or it is stripped from the water by microbial activity (EPA, 2007). The recovered phos- phorus is then buried in a landfill or treated to create sludge fertilizer (Pittman et al., 2011). Given that readily available supplies of phosphorus may begin running out by the end of the 21st century (Vaccari, 2009), conservation and stewardship of U.S. phosphorus supplies are essential. Recycling nutrients from wastewater and using them for further algae pro- duction could be an attractive option for using otherwise discarded nutrients (Exhibit 9.7 and associated text in DOE, 2010b; see also section Nutrients in Chapter 4).

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ENVIRONMENTAL EFFECTS 145 Algae-based treatments have been found to be as efficient as chemical treatment in removing phosphorus from wastewater (Hoffmann, 1998). Moreover, because har- vested algal biomass contains the nutrients that were absorbed during cellular growth, wastewater-integrated systems can perform an important nutrient removal service. In laboratory-scale experiments, more than 90 percent of nitrogen and 80 percent of phos- phorus were removed from primary treated sewage by the green alga Chlorella vulgaris (Lau et al., 1995). Similarly, laboratory cultures of Chlorella and Scenedesmus removed 80 to 100 percent of NH3, nitrate, and total phosphorus from wastewater that already had undergone secondary treatment (Martinez et al., 2000; Zhang et al., 2008; Ruiz-Marin et al., 2010). Sturm et al. (2012) performed a six-month, pilot-scale algal production experi- ment using large (10 cubic meters) outdoor bioreactors fed by effluent from the secondary clarifier of the wastewater treatment facility in Lawrence, KS. They reported only a 19 percent removal of dissolved nitrogen and a 43 percent removal of dissolved phosphorus from this treated effluent. These differences in nutrient removal observed may be related, in part, to the different scales of the studies. The ultimate level of nutrient removal benefit may depend on the level of wastewater treatment that occurs prior to nutrient uptake in the algal cultivation systems and on the chemical and ecological conditions that exist in the wastewater-fed production system. Algae have the potential to remove nutrients from agricultural or industrial waste- water. Some studies have found high efficiencies of removal of nitrogen and phosphorus from wastewater containing manure (Gonzalez et al., 1997; Wilkie and Mulbry, 2002; An et al., 2003), and this wastewater also could be used as input to algal biofuel systems. Algal biofuel systems have the potential to increase water quality and to promote municipal or agricultural wastewater treatment systems with improved sustainability. However, the maintenance of lipid-rich strains and the manipulation of growth conditions to promote high lipid production have yet to be demonstrated consistently for outdoor pond systems, including wastewater treatment ponds (DOE, 2010b). Industrial wastewaters have lower nutrient concentrations and higher toxicant concentrations, and thus are less likely to be used to generate the algal biomass necessary for commercial-scale production of biofuels (Pittman et al., 2011). Integrated algal biofuel production systems can remove many other pollutants, such as metals and organic contaminants, including endocrine disruptors (Mallick, 2002; Munoz and Guieysse, 2006; Ahluwalia and Goyal, 2007; DOE, 2010b). Whether pollutant uptake by algae is desirable depends on whether coproducts are to be produced with algal biofuels or whether the lipid-extracted algae are to be used for nutrient recycling. Pollutant removal by these systems would improve water quality, but it also could pose a potential risk if or- ganisms such as migrating waterfowl directly or incidentally consumed high metal content algae during the cultivation process, or if humans or wildlife were exposed chronically to the dried algae during biomass processing. Uptake of pollutants by algae is not desirable if residual biomass is to be used for human cosmetic products or animal feed. 5.1.6 Comparison of Pathways The pathways described in Chapter 3 affect the types, probabilities, and magnitudes of water-quality effects (Table 5-1). For example, slow releases of nutrients to natural environ- ments (and increased potential for eutrophication and groundwater pollution) are common for open systems but not for closed systems. Herbicides likely would be used only in open systems. The water quality benefit for wastewater treatment is achieved only if wastewaters are used as nutrient sources, but the scenarios in Chapter 3 do not specify this.

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146 SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT OF ALGAL BIOFUELS TABLE 5-1 An Illustration of Potential Benefits and Adverse Effects to Water Quality from Different Pathways for Algal Biofuel Production Potential Effect Pathway Open-pond, salt Open-pond, salt Open-pond, salt Photobioreactor, Open-pond, salt water, producing water, producing water, producing salt water, water, producing biodiesel, biodiesel + FAMEa, recycling direct synthesis, biomass, pyrolysis, recycling coproducts nutrients and recycling water recycling some nutrients and water nutrients and water water Releases of Slow releases Slow releases Slow releases No slow releases, Slow releases Culture Water from seepage, from seepage, from seepage, catastrophic from seepage, overtopping overtopping overtopping breaches rare overtopping likely, likely, likely, likely, catastrophic catastrophic catastrophic catastrophic breaches rare breaches rare breaches rare breaches rare Eutrophication Rare, only when Rare, only when Rare, only when Very rare, only Rare, only when and Related large volume large volume large volume when large large volume Effects releases occur releases occur releases occur volume releases releases occur occur Waterborne Herbicides, Herbicides, Herbicides, Heavy metals Herbicides, heavy Toxicants heavy metals heavy metals heavy metals may be present metals may be may be present may be present may be present and pose present and pose and pose and pose and pose occupational occupational occupational occupational occupational exposures and or ecological or ecological or ecological or ecological risks exposures and exposures and exposures and exposures and risks risks risks risks Groundwater Possible, Possible, Possible, Rare, only when Possible, Pollution depending depending depending catastrophic depending on on soil type, on soil type, on soil type, breaches occur soil type, distance distance to distance to distance to to groundwater, groundwater, groundwater, groundwater, and frequency of and frequency of and frequency of and frequency of release release release release Wastewater Algae may treat Algae may treat Algae may treat Algae may treat Algae may treat Treatment wastewater if wastewater if wastewater if wastewater if wastewater if wastewater is wastewater is wastewater is wastewater is wastewater is used as nutrient used as nutrient used as nutrient used as nutrient used as nutrient source source source source source aFatty-acid methyl esters. 5.1.7 Sustainability Indicators Proposed sustainability indicators for water quality include aqueous concentrations and loadings of nutrients, herbicides, metals, and salinity of groundwater (GBEP, 2012). These indicators are standard measures for quality of water and wastewater (Eaton et al., 2005). Concentrations of nutrients are included because they relate to benefits or potentially adverse effects on water quality (for example, eutrophication). These usually are measured quantities, and baseline levels and natural variability also can be measured. Loadings are field measures or simulation results representing the contribution of released algal biofuel culture media to receiving waters. These may be compared to other loadings to those waters.

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ENVIRONMENTAL EFFECTS 147 Nitrate concentration in streams and groundwater. Total nitrogen concentration in streams, lakes, reservoirs, and estuaries. Total phosphorus concentration in streams, lakes, reservoirs, and estuaries. Nitrate loading to streams and groundwater. Total phosphorus loading to streams. Herbicide concentrations in streams. Herbicide loading to streams. Metal concentrations in streams. Metal concentrations in cultures. Salinity of groundwater. 5.1.8 Information and Data Gaps Good design and engineering would minimize the potential for releases of water and nutrients from open-pond systems to surface water and to ground water. Toxicant concen- trations (for example, metals) need to be characterized, particularly if wastewater or pro- duced water is used as culture medium. Information on the nutrient removal efficiencies of commercial-scale facilities would be needed if algal biofuel production is to be combined with wastewater treatment. 5.2 LAND-USE CHANGE 5.2.1 Potential Environmental Effects Land-use change is a change in anthropogenic activities on land, which often is char- acterized in part by a change in land cover, including the dominant vegetation. Land-use changes play a role in the sustainability of algal biofuel development because of associated environmental effects, such as net GHG emissions, changes in biodiversity, and changes in ecosystem services such as food production. Moreover, there is growing societal concern about the spatial and temporal scales of some types of conversions, such as deforestation and urbanization. The impacts of algal biofuel development will depend in part on the type of land conversion, the extent (area) of land use that has changed, the intensity of land disturbance and management, and the duration of the change (for example, whether it is reversible). Commercial-scale production of algal biofuels will require substantial land area for each facility (see Chapter 4), and the large-scale deployment of algal biofuels will lead to conversion of lands from other existing uses. Land conversion for ponds, processing facili- ties, and refineries for most products will be localized, and potential land conversion for related infrastructure, such as roads and power lines to the facilities, will be more diffuse and will involve linear features. This section focuses on land-use change (LUC) associated with algae cultivation, because change associated with feedstock processing or refining facilities is not different in kind from that of other liquid fuel sources. High-value lands used by agriculture, by other commodity industries, and for residen- tial purposes are unlikely to be used for algae cultivation because algae cultivation does not require fertile soils and because capital and operating costs would have to be kept low for algal biofuel companies to operate close to the profit margin (Table 5-2). Similarly, the con- version of forestland is unlikely because of the high costs of clearing and site preparation and the high value for residential or recreational use. Land-use change for algal biofuels is

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148 SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT OF ALGAL BIOFUELS TABLE 5-2 A Summary of the Committee's Judgment on the Likelihood of Land (or Water Surface) Conversion to Algae Cultivation Ponds and Facilities, Based on Value for Other Land (or Surface Water) Uses Land Type Possible or Likely Unlikely Productive agricultural land X Marginally or unproductive agricultural land X Desert X Brownfields X High-value coastal land X Low-value coastal land X Forest land X Rangeland, low-density grazing land X Parks and conservation land X Wetlands X Residential land X Industrial parks X Urban land other than brownfields X Former catfish pond lands X Offshore X NOTE: Low-value land is assumed to be used to cultivate algae for biofuels. more likely to involve brownfields2, rangelands, deserts, scrubland, abandoned farmland, or unproductive farmland, some of which may be on coasts or in near-shore marine waters. On coasts, dredge spoil islands might be additional options for use. For example, Phycal, an algal biofuel company, is using fallow land in Hawaii that was previously a pineapple plantation but is no longer economically viable for that use. Sapphire, another company operating in the Southwest, plans to develop nonagricultural land for algae cultivation. (Siting requirements are described in Chapter 4.) Competing land demands could change over time and may influence the landscape of algal biofuels. For example, some of the same lands that are attractive for algal biofuel development are also attractive for large-scale solar power development (BLM and DOE, 2010). Direct land-use change generally is defined as a direct cause-and-effect link between biofuel development and land conversion in the absence of strong external mediating fac- tors. Direct land-use change occurs within the biofuel production pathway when land for one use is dedicated for biofuel production. However, in practice, direct land-use change from biofuel production generally is assumed to include lands used for feedstock produc- tion, processing, storage, and refining areas. Indirect land-use change occurs when biofuel production causes new land-use changes elsewhere domestically or in another country through market-mediated effects (NRC, 2011). Direct and indirect land-use changes could affect the net GHG emissions of biofuels (NRC, 2011). Direct land-use change can result in carbon sequestration or net GHG emis- sions, depending on the type of land conversion and prior land use. For example, con- verting from annual-crop production to perennial-crop production can enhance carbon storage on that piece of land (Fargione et al., 2008). Conversely, clearing native ecosystems to produce row-crops would result in a one-time release of a large quantity of GHGs into the atmosphere (Fargione et al., 2008; Gibbs et al., 2008; Ravindranath et al., 2009). In the 2Brownfields are "industrial or commercial propert[ies] that [remain] abandoned or underutilized because of environmental contamination or the fear of such contamination" (Environmental Law Institute, 2012).

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ENVIRONMENTAL EFFECTS 149 context of algae cultivation, converting pastureland to algal ponds is likely to contribute to GHG emissions. Perennial pasture is effective in sequestering carbon in soil (Franzluebbers, 2010; Gurian-Sherman, 2011). Removal of such vegetation would result in a one-time loss of carbon and the elimination of any potential for further carbon sequestration if the land is to be left as a pasture. In contrast, if the algae cultivation ponds are installed on degraded land that is not storing much carbon, immediate emissions from the conversion will be minimal. Indirect land-use change could occur if the use of land to cultivate biofuel feedstocks replaces and ultimately reduces the production levels of crops destined for a commodity market. The lowered production of those commodities could drive up market prices, which in turn could trigger agricultural growers to clear land elsewhere to grow the displaced crops in response to market signals (Babcock, 2009; Zilberman et al., 2010). However, as stated above, because algal feedstock cultivation does not require fertile cropland, ar- able land likely will not be used for algal biofuels (Sheehan et al., 1998; Gong and Jiang, 2011), and displacement of commodity crops by algae is unlikely. In addition, protein from lipid-extracted algae potentially can replace soybean or other terrestrial crops as feedstuff (Wijffels and Barbosa, 2010) and reduce the demand for land by terrestrial crops. The nu- tritional compatibility of algal feedstuff and the animal diet would have to be examined. Pasture and rangeland could be converted to algae cultivation, and displacement of these land uses by algae also may or may not result in other indirect effects. If the pasture or rangeland is surplus and not in use, then repurposing the land will not incur indirect land-use change (ILUC). In contrast, if algae cultivation displaces grass-fed cattle production, producers might decide to change to corn-fed cattle production. Changing from grass-fed to corn-fed cattle production also would exert pressure on the corn-grain market. Alternatively, if existing pasture and rangeland is limiting beef production, such that removing some of this land would decrease production, then grass-fed cattle produc- tion might be replaced elsewhere. The indirect land-use changes not only affect ecosystem services, but result in changes in GHG emissions that have to be considered in life-cycle GHG assessments for algal biofuels. If the indirect effects of algal biofuel production are to be quantified, then the potential biodiversity, water quality, and water balance impacts would include those associated with indirect land conversions. Previous quantification of indirect effects of biofuels generally has been limited to GHG effects and food security effects. As in the case of terrestrial-crop biofuels, market-mediated indirect land-use changes are difficult to ascertain, and estimates of associated GHG emissions are highly uncertain (NRC, 2011). Although complex models have been used to project the extent of indirect land-use changes as a result of terrestrial-crop biofuels, the committee is not aware of simi- lar projections for algal biofuels. Algae cultivation is less likely to incur indirect land-use changes because it does not require prime agricultural land. Converting crop lands to new crops (algal biofuels) also will require new ownership or a willingness on the part of farm- ers to grow a new commodity. Growing algal biofuels will require differing work schedules than row crop farming. Even if cropland is not to be converted to algal ponds, the above dis- cussion of potential pasture conversion illustrates a potential for indirect land-use change. 5.2.2 Comparison of Pathways With respect to land-use change, the primary relevant difference among the pathways in Chapter 3 is the difference between the land required for open-pond and photobioreac- tor systems (see Chapter 4). The spatial and temporal scales of land-use change would be commensurate with those of land use.

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