Biogas, the energy of the future

Biogas plants provide a storable and renewable energy source while also dealing with local waste management

Biogas is a mixture of methane (CH4; 55–70% of the total volume), carbon dioxide (CO2; 30–40%) and traces of other gases. It is obtained through the anaerobic digestion (AD) of organic matter, a process carried out by various species of microorganisms in close collaboration, and it is produced inside anaerobic digesters. Industrial AD has two advantages: the production of biogas that can be used as vehicle fuel or to generate electricity or heat, and the treatment of organic waste such as sewage sludge, animal slurry and food waste.

Making biogas production efficient

Our ambitious objective at MICRO4BIOGAS is to optimise the biogas production process

We use bioaugmentation strategies based on microbial strains that naturally inhabit production tanks. We will select the most efficient microbes and combine them with artificial microbial consortia, developed through kinetic modelling, flux balance analyses and adaptive evolution. This way, we aim to improve the yield, quality, speed and robustness of biogas production. Our work at MICRO4BIOGAS is well aligned with the EU Bioeconomy Strategy and the European Green Deal.

Milestones

We will sample and sequence (by metataxonomic and metagenomic sequencing) anaerobic digestion plants. In addition, in order to shed light on the microbial communities present in these environments, we will analyse their genomic data. This way, we will be able to identify the associations between specific microbial strains, which will help improve the efficiency and quality of the biogas that these communities produce. Furthermore, we will synthetically design an enhanced and more robust microbial consortia for bioaugmentation, using adaptive evolution strategies supported by kinetic modelling, flux balance and omic analyses.

 

In this second phase, we will evaluate the ability to improve biogas production of the strains and consortia resulting from the previous phase. The experiments will be carried out in laboratory-scale anaerobic digesters. We will select the best strains/consortia according to four key target parameters, yield, quality, residence time and reproducibility, and scale up the experiments to larger anaerobic digesters.

In this phase we will test the bioaugmentation strategy in a real case study, in Aras de los Olmos in Spain, a pioneer European town that aims to self-supply all of its energy renewably from solar, wind, hydraulic and biogas sources. Aside from validating the bioaugmentation strategy and the proposed designs for the digesters, experiments conducted in the plant will provide real-life data to inform potential commercialisation strategies.

After the previous phases, we will characterise the process through environmental life cycle assessments as well as technoeconomic and social impact evaluations. Finally, a business model will be developed for the exploitation and financing of the bioaugmentation strategy designed within MICRO4BIOGAS.

Work packages

MICRO4BIOGAS is divided into eight work packages (WPs) which deal with four topics.

Foundations of the bioaugmentation strategy

We will deeply analyse the European biogas landscape from several points of view, including technological and innovative aspects as well as policy considerations. Indeed, we will isolate, characterise and improve microbial consortia that naturally inhabit anaerobic digesters. All these results will be integrated and fed into the following WPs, the main goal of which is to develop a novel bioaugmentation strategy.

Involved partners: Dresden University of Technology, University of Valencia, Darwin Bioprospecting Excellence, Scienseed, Draxis Environmental, Aras de los Olmos.

Involved partners: Darwin Bioprospecting Excellence, Dresden University of Technology, Bioclear Earth, BioEnergie Verbund, Draxis Environmental.

Involved partners: Ghent University, University of Valencia, Dresden University of Technology, Draxis Environmental.

Validation, scale up, and exploitation of the bioaugmentation strategy

We will perform several proof-of-concepts in different scale and configuration reactors, characterising biogas yield, quality, residence time and robustness of the process. In addition, we will evaluate the environmental life cycle and technoeconomic aspects of the and develop a business model for its future exploitation.

Involved partners: BioEnergie Verbund, Finrenes, Bioclear Earth, Polytechnic University of Valencia, Aras de los Olmos, Dresden University of Technology, AEV Energy GmbH.

Involved partners: Draxis Environmental, Bioclear Earth, AEV Energy GmbH, Darwin Bioprospecting Excellence, University of Valencia, Dresden University of Technology, Ghent University.

Involved partners: ABS International, AEV Energy GmbH, Polytechnic University of Valencia, Aras de los Olmos, GasTerra, Bioclear Earth, University of Valencia, Finrenes.

Communication and management

We will maximise the impact of MICRO4BIOGAS by raising awareness through communication and dissemination, as well as providing professionals working in AD digestors with training activities.

We will ensure an effective realisation and management of the project activities whilst ensuring the smooth development of all aspects of the project.

Involved partners: Scienseed with the support of all partners.

Involved partners: University of Valencia with the support of all partners.