Economic evaluation of up- and downstream scenarios for the co-production of fucoxanthin and eicosapentaenoic acid with P. tricornutum using flat-panel airlift photobioreactors with artificial light
This study presents an economic assessment of an up- and downstream process for the co-production of fucoxanthin and eicosapentaenoic acid using the diatom P. tricornutum in commercial flat-panel airlift photobioreactors with artificial illumination. For the first time, comprehensive experimental data on the cultivation of P. tricornutum and the extraction and separation of both target compounds were used to evaluate production costs in three scenarios, from pilot to industrial scale. Biomass-specific production costs of 882 to 228 e kg−1 were determined, depending on the scale of the production plant. This results in minimum production costs of 32,042 e kg−1 for purified fucoxanthin (>90%w/w) and 7343 e kg−1 for highly concentrated eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). Operating costs - in particular energy requirements for the artificial illumination and cooling of the reactors - were found to be the main overall cost drivers. Furthermore, the results show that a sizable cost reduction by upscaling is only possible to a limited extent. The assessment revealed that the overall profitability of the entire process is much more dependent on fucoxanthin than on EPA, and thus the prevailing market price of fucoxanthin is crucial for an investment decision.