What do beer, biogas, and cosmetics have in common? The CHEERS project explores this fascinating relationship within the brewery industry.

Biogas is produced during the anaerobic digestion of biowastes. Many breweries utilize anaerobic digestors to treat part of their organic wastes, generating biogas primarily composed of methane and carbon dioxide. Methane can be valorised for energy production, but innovative microbial platforms are now being developed to convert this gas into value-added compounds like ectoine, a profitable raw material for many humectants that can protect against oxidative stress.

Ectoine is synthesised by halotrophic bacteria in the presence of methane. However, the process is limited by the low solubility of methane in water and the relatively low gas-liquid mass transfer in commonly used reactors, such as bubble column reactors, which limits bacterial ectoine production.

From Methane to Ectoine

Addressing this challenge, the Institute of Sustainable Processes (ISP) of the University of Valladolid (UVa) is collaborating with SYSPRO and AQUALIA to design, implement, and operate a demonstration platform for the bioconversion of methane into ectoine. The ISP of UVa is leading the development of an innovative Taylor-flow reactor to enhance this process. Taylor-flow reactors can employ different types of capillaries with excellent results. However, scaling up several hundreds of capillaries to treat high biogas flow rates in brewery industries, can be challenging. To overcome this, the ISP is developing a new prototype Taylor-flow reactor, easier to install and cost-effective.

In collaboration with SYSPRO and AQUALIA, the ISP of UVa is validating this innovative technology to facilitate its scalability to the microbial platform of the CHEERS Demo plant. These efforts demonstrate that biobased industries, like breweries, are an excellent platform for new biorefineries for waste valorisation. Novel technological developments, such as high mass-transfer reactors, are essential to this new concept, and the CHEERs project is revealing countless innovation possibilities.