Australian beer makers fight climate change by feeding CO2 to algae

Young Henrys brewery co-founders Oscar McMahon (left) and Richard Adamson (right) pour beer from their fermentation tanks at the brewery in Sydney, Australia on Nov 9, 2021.
PHOTO: Reuters

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SYDNEY - 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 CO2 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 craft beer brewery in Sydney teamed up with scientists to set up two bioreactors filled with trillions of the tiny organisms.

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.

"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," said McMahon.

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"As an urban carbon sequestration and oxygen producing solution, it's mind-blowing," he added.

The Young Henrys team and the scientists from University of Technology, Sydney have also joined industry group Meat and 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 university.

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.