Science and Nature

Australian beer makers fight climate change by feeding carbon to algae

Australian beer makers fight climate change by feeding carbon to algae thumbnail

Australian beer makers have brewed up a novel way to fight climate change: capturing the carbon dioxide produced by fermenting hops and feeding it to micro-algae.

The carbon emitted by fermenting hops to make a six-pack of beer can take a tree two days to absorb, experts say. To tackle that problem, the founders of Young Henrys brewery in Sydney teamed up with scientists to set up two “bioreactors” filled with trillions of the tiny organisms.

Young Henrys brewery co-founder Oscar McMahon collects samples of micro-algae from a bioreactor at the brewery in Sydney, Australia, November 9, 2021. (REUTERS)

Inside the two 400-litre bioreactors at the company’s brewery in Sydney, the algae absorb the carbon, then reproduce and transform it into oxygen. Each bioreactor produces as much oxygen as two hectares of bushland, Young Henrys co-founder Oscar McMahon told Reuters.

The Young Henry’s brewery is tackling climate change, using micro-algae to combat carbon emissions. #9Today

— The Today Show (@TheTodayShow) October 30, 2021

“We could knock down our whole site and plant trees, and … it would take years before they did the same amount of carbon sequestration and oxygen creation as those two bioreactors,” McMahon told Reuters. “As an urban carbon sequestration and oxygen producing solution, it’s mind-blowing.”

The Young Henrys team, the scientists from University of Technology, Sydney have also joined industry group Meat & Livestock Australia to investigate whether the algae could be used to offset the methane emissions of Australian livestock.

“Instead of us digging something up, making a product and then throwing it away, we circularise it and we’re actually going to use our carbon effectively,” said Professor Peter Ralph, the executive director of the Climate Change Cluster at the UTS.

Australia, one of the world’s top producers of coal and gas, has adopted a target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050, but Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said he would not legislate the target.

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