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Large microbial protein plant built in Russia

The world’s first commercial scale plant that turns methane gas into protein, with the use of bacteria, is ready.

The plant is built in Russia by the company Protelux. The technology used is from Unibio, a Danish company. Unibio has invented the U-Loop technology to convert natural gas (methane) into high quality protein that can be used in animal feed. This patented technology is a vertical pipe structure that provides optimal growth conditions for the bacteria. This is a more efficient and faster way of fermenting than horizontal, conventional bioreactors. Natural gas contains about 89-95% of methane. The company is not using methane coming from ruminants but aims to use waste gas from the industry or natural gas from the ground.

The protein that is produced from having bacteria ‘feed’ on the methane is comparable with high quality fish meal when we look at the amino acid composition for example. Photo: Emmy Koeleman
The protein that is produced from having bacteria ‘feed’ on the methane is comparable with high quality fish meal when we look at the amino acid composition for example. Photo: Emmy Koeleman

Russia is the ideal place

Last July, the construction of the plant was finished. Protelux and Unibio are currently testing the plant and expect to commission it by late 2018. The plant contains 4 U-shaped bio-reactors. Russia was chosen as an ideal site for the production of bacterial protein, as the country has a well-developed compound feed industry and there is access to an abundance of cheap natural gas. The place where the plant is situated is located in an industrial zone holding various international companies and where a lot of the necessary infrastructure is already present to support the project.

Upscaling soon

The plant has a production capacity of approx 6,000 tonnes per year. The companies expect a rapid capacity increase to 100,000+ tonnes per year soon. Unibio also has a small production plant in Kalundborg, Denmark. All About Feed recently visited Unibio at their offices, located at the campus of the Technical University of Denmark in Lyngby. We met up with Ina Karlshøj Julegaard, animal nutritionist and Michael Jensen, chief commercial officer about the potential of their microbial protein in animal feed. Read the full interview here.

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