Alongside solar and wind energy, biogas is an important step in the energy transition.There are approximately 18,000 biogas installations in Europe, which account for half of the global biogas production. A favourable aspect of biogas is that its production is robust and does not depend on weather conditions. In addition, biogas is a so-called energy carrier, which means that it can be stored for later use, for example as a fuel. Another advantage of biogas production is that the energy is produced from waste streams. Furthermore, optimal biogas production ensures that no methane is released into the atmosphere and remaining residual flows (digestate) are used as soil improver and fertiliser. In this way the cycle with the soil is closed. In addition, the use of biogas is CO2-neutral.
The production of biogas has been a black box so far. You could compare a reactor with our intestines, in which bacteria, fungi and yeasts take care of breaking down food and converting it into building blocks and energy. This process can run optimally if the right micro-organisms are present, but it can also be disturbed, for example, by eating contaminated food. Similar processes take place in a biogas reactor, but exactly which ones and how they work together is yet unclear. Because of this gap in knowledge, there is still a lot of room to optimise these processes.
The European cooperation project MICRO4BIOGAS, part of Horizon 2020/ European Green Deal, aims at identifying, developing and validating bioaugmentation strategies for anaerobic digestion that are technically feasible and economically viable. Based on our expertise and experience in projects such as Biopulping (pre-treatment of lignin-containing biomass) Swillpower (anaerobic digestion on a small scale), Greenstep (boosting digestion processes), Power 2 Methane (methane production with methanogenic micro-organisms) we have been asked to participate in this project. Within this project, we co-operate with the Universities of Valencia, Dresden and Ghent and companies such as Gasterra and Darwin.
Together we are investigating whether we can improve the production of biogas by:
In order to develop a good bioaugmentation strategy, you first need to know what happens in existing reactors. Bioclear Earth is asked to unravel the microbiological processes involved in biogas production. We do this by sampling existing biogas plants and analysing the DNA from the samples. This produces a huge amount of data, which we then process with specially developed bioinformatics tools. This allows us to map microbiological networks of collaborating micro-organisms (consortia). We then look at which consortia produce the best results on a laboratory scale. Subsequently the best performing consortia are tested at full scale.
In addition to the technical content aspect of the project, we are involved in assessing the environmental impact, economic profitability and social impact of these production processes. The ultimate goal is to produce an affordable bioaugmentation kit that can improve the production of existing biogas plants or help start up new plants.
The knowledge we gain in this project in the field of identification and application of microbiological consortia can be very interesting for use in other biological ecosystems in the future, for example in agriculture or for industrial production processes in which microbiology plays an important role.
Are you interested in this project and do you want more information, please contact Jeroen Tideman.