Australian brewery trials algae bioreactor to reduce CO2

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Sydney-based brewer Young Henrys has installed a bioreactor teeming with green, glowing algae among its more familiar beer tanks, in a bid to see if the microscopic marine organisms can help make brewing more carbon neutral. Currently, the CO2 from the fermentation of just one six pack of beer takes a tree two full days to absorb.

However, working in partnership with scientists at the University of Technology Sydney Climate Change Cluster (C3), and part funded by a government grant, the independent brewery hopes to prove that utilising algae could make a huge difference to climate change by consuming CO2, a bi-product of the brewing process, and releasing oxygen.

We began working with the UTS Climate Change Cluster on this project as they are developing numerous real world uses for algae which can help combat climate change,” explained Young Henrys co-founder, Oscar McMahon. “Together, we’ve developed a method of using CO2, which is a bi-product of the brewing process, to feed the algae housed in the bioreactors in on our brew floor. In turn reducing our emissions as a business,” he continued.

As a business we believe that the private and public sector can lead the way in enacting change within society to reverse our impact on climate change. We feel as an independently owned Australian company, we need to do our bit and hopefully set a good example.”

Fellow co-founder, Richard Adamson, added: “We were inspired by the work the C3 group was doing and wanted to get involved. Some of the skills we have as brewers managing yeast have an analogue in growing algae – it’s almost like they have an inverse relationship. We thought it would be worth exploring how microalgae could work in a brewing operation to lower our carbon footprint and produce real world solutions.”

The luminous bioreactor installed in Young Henrys’ Newtown brewery holds 400 litres, with each millilitre containing roughly 5 million microalgae cells. It produces as much oxygen as one hectare of Australian forest.

Algae is naturally occurring in the environment, and forms a critical part of all aquatic food webs and ecosystems. There are two main types: macroalgae, which consists of kelps and seaweeds; and microalgae, which are tiny, microscopic plants that can grow both in fresh and saltwater. Both are extremely effective at photosynthesis, producing more than 50% of the world’s oxygen, while their ability to soak up CO2 has seen them increasingly used in the food and bio-plastics industries.

The first phase of the partnership between UTS and Young Henrys is the research and set up of the algae-fuelled bioreactor in the brewery. The second phase, which has yet to launch, will focus on achieving even more carbon capture to create a large biomass of algae. More details for phase two will be released in the coming months.

Professor Peter Ralph, executive director of the Climate Change Cluster concluded: “This partnership allows us to showcase that it is possible to have action today on climate change. The project really showcases how research together with industry, can create practical and innovative solutions to address global problems today.

Image source: Young Henrys

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With over 20 years experience in editorial management and content creation for a broad spectrum of market-leading B2B magazines and websites in the transport and technology sectors, Anthony has written news and features covering everything from airport security to autonomous vehicles, and stadium design to sustainable energy.

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