Betting on biotech for CO2 conversion solutions
Essen – Germany’s largest power supplier RWE is teaming up with industrial biotechnology specialist Brain AG. Together the two want to develop tailor-made microbes able to remove carbon dioxide from the gas mixture emitted by lignite-fired power stations. The partners say the partnership will explore and engineer new enzymes, along with innovative synthesis and pathway routes, adding that the new designer organisms now being explored could produce building and insulating materials as well as fine and specialty chemicals. An experimental plant is to be located at RWE Power’s Coal Innovation Centre at its Cologne power plant site. Brain’s Research Director Jürgen Eck believes “a new era of CO2 conversion” could be opened up by the co-operation. “The co-operation is an important step towards using biology to tackle technical challenges,” added Dr. Johannes Ewers, New Technology/Carbon Capture & Storage Manager at RWE Power. The energy supplier already runs an algae project that uses plant matter to mop up carbon dioxide, converting it into biomass. However, that process suffers from capacity problems, as it is restricted by a low conversion rate. Bacteria or certain fungi, on the other hand, offer much more active metabolic pathways that can be exploited to help solve some of those problems. RWE Power claims it will invest more than a90m into exploring solutions for more efficient CO2 conversion.