Microalgae have been used as energy resources in recent decades to mitigate the global energy crisis. As the demand for pure microalgae strains for commercial use increases, designing an effective photobioreactor (PBR) for mass cultivation is important. Chlorella vulgaris, a local freshwater microalga, was used to study the algal biomass cultivation and lipid production using various PBR configurations (bubbling, air-lift, porous air-lift). The results show that a bubbling column design is a better choice for the cultivation of Chlorella vulgaris than an air-lift one. The highest biomass concentration in the bubbling PBR was 0.78 g/L while the air-lift PBR had a value of 0.09 g/L. Key operating parameters, including draft-tube length and bubbling flowrate, were then optimized based on biomass production and lipid yield. The highest lipid content was in the porous air-lift PBR and the air-lift PBR with shorter draft tube (35 cm) was also better than a longer one (50 cm) for algal cultivation, but the microalgae attached on the inner tube of PBR always occurred. The highest biomass concentration could be produced under the highest gas flowrate of 2.7 L/min whereas the lowest dry cell mass was under the lowest gas flowrate of 0.2 L/min. Copyright © 2015 Water Environment Federation.