Research team to use raw CO2

RWE Power and Zwingenberg-based BRAIN are collaborating on a joint research programme aimed at creating microbial biomass or biomolecules from raw CO2 material.

The project is hosted by the RWE-operated Coal Innovation Centre in Niederaussem.

The power generator and the biotechnology company are researching ways to equip micro-organisms with new enzymes and are exploring innovative synthesis routes and pathways.

The micro-organisms, which are provided by BRAIN, are fed with flue gas, rich in CO2 from a lignite-fired power station. The process creates biomass and industrial products such as new biomaterials, bioplastics and chemical by-products.

Some of the possible applications being explored by RWE and BRAIN include building and isolation materials and the production of fine and speciality chemicals.

An experimental plant has been proposed at RWE Power’s Coal Innovation Centre at its Niederaussem power-plant site.

Dr Johannes Lambertz, chief executive at RWE Power, said that the company supports the reduction and storage of CO2, but it believes that further intelligent uses should be developed for CO2.

‘Quite deliberately, we are combining what we know about power generation with the expertise of specialist companies such as BRAIN,’ he said. ‘We want to find as many different solutions as possible.’

According to RWE and BRAIN, micro-organisms grow faster than plants and even algae. In fermentation units, high cell densities emerge and, from this, more intensive mutation can be induced. Overall, this leads to a higher level of CO2 conversion.

RWE has made the Coal Innovation Centre at Niederaussem the hub of its activities for environmentally friendly power generation from coal. Among other activities, Germany’s first CO2 scrubbing plant is already under operation there.