It is imperative that the world moves towards the utilisation of CO2 as a feedstock for the production of chemicals and fuels, replacing those derived from fossil sources. In order to exploit localised CO2 sources, the development of distributed biorefineries is desirable. These refineries can then be integrated into pre-existing industrial processes which emit CO2-rich gases. As foreseen, the ENGICOIN biorefinery will be suitable for exploiting CO2-rich gas streams from other sources, including cement kilns and breweries.
The ENGICOIN project aims to develop to TRL5 a set of three microbial factories (MFs) whose performance will be validated in a real industrial environment. The prototype biorefinery will exploit CO2-rich gases derived from anaerobic digestion. The biorefinery will also exploit solar radiation in a photobioreactor (MF1) and hydrogen generated from renewable sources. It is envisioned that future biorefineries based on the ENGICOIN concept will be integrated into existing industrial processes, exploiting local CO2 sources and H2 generated via electrolysis.
The three microbial factories (MFs) will each based on a different microbial species and producing a different chemical product from the CO2 input stream. The species exploited in the biorefinery will be Synechocystis spp (MF1), Ralstonia eutropha (MF2) and Acetobacterium woodii (MF3). The final biorefinery will produce lactic acid, acetone and polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs).
Two of the three process strains required for the ENGICOIN concept will be developed at the SBRC, using methodologies such as synthetic biology and metabolic engineering:
The aerobic and toxic metal tolerant Ralstonia eutropha to produce PHA bioplastics from biogas combustion flue gases and complementary carbon sources derived from the AD digestate.
The anaerobic Acetobacterium woodii to produce acetone from the CO2 stream from biogas-to-biomethane purification.
Optimisation of fermentation conditions will be conducted at the University of Nottingham (UNOTT) and the Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (IIT).
The ENGICOIN consortium brings together partners from across Europe, including research groups, small enterprises and industrial concerns. ENGICOIN will support the EU in becoming a leader in microbial CO2 re-use technologies.
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This project has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme under Grant Agreement No. 760994.