Carbon emission avoidance and capture by producing in-reactor microbial biomass based food, feed and slow release fertilizer: potentials and limitations

Ilje Pikaar, Jo de Vrieze, Korneel Rabaey, Mario Herrero, Pete Smith, Willy Verstraete

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42 Citations (Scopus)
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To adhere to the Paris Agreement of 2015, we need to store several gigatonnes (Gt) of carbon annually. In the last years, a variety of technologies for carbon capture and storage (CCS) and carbon capture and usage (CCU) have been demonstrated. While conventional CCS and CCU are techno-economically feasible, their climate change mitigation potentials are limited, due to limited amount of CO2 that can be captured. Hence, there is an urgent need to explore other CCS and CCU routes. Here we discuss an interesting alternative route for capture of carbon dioxide from industrial point sources, using CO2-binding, so-called autotrophic aerobic bacteria to produce microbial biomass as a C-storage product. The produced microbial biomass is often referred to as microbial protein (MP) because it has a crude protein content of ~70- 75%. Depending on the industrial production process and final quality of the produced MP, it can be used for human consumption as meat replacement, protein supplement in animal diets, or slow release organic fertilizer thus providing both organic nitrogen and carbon to agricultural soils. Here, we discuss the potentials and limitations of this so far unexplored CCU approach. A preliminary assessment of the economic feasibility of the different routes for CO2 carbon avoidance, capture and utilization indicates that the value chain to food is becoming attractive and that the other end-points warrant close monitoring over the coming years.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1525-1530
Number of pages6
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Early online date23 Jul 2018
Publication statusPublished - 10 Dec 2018

Bibliographical note

Jo De Vrieze is supported as postdoctoral fellow from the Research Foundation Flanders (FWO-Vlaanderen). IP, KR and WV acknowledge support from the Australian Research Council (ARC), project DP170102812. KR acknowledges support from the Research Foundation Flanders (FWO-Vlaanderen), project G018814N and Interreg project EnOP. The input from PS contributed to the following projects: DEVIL [NE/M021327/1], MAGLUE [EP/M013200/1], U-GRASS [NE/M016900/1], Assess-BECCS [funded by UKERC] and Soils-R-GRREAT [NE/P019455/1].


  • climate change
  • carbon capture
  • microbial protein
  • slow-release fertilizer
  • feed and food


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