The process of fermenting beer releases a whole lot of carbon dioxide (CO2). In fact, it takes a tree about two days to absorb the CO2 released from producing just one six-pack of beer. By adding algae to the beer production process, a brewery called Young Henrys in Australia hopes to dramatically cut carbon while producing oxygen.
Algae, a photosynthetic organism, is often seen as a nuisance because it can cause red tide — a toxic algal bloom — or infect local water sources. But it is also up to five times more effective at absorbing carbon than trees, according to the technology company Hypergiant. Oscar McMahon, Young Henrys’ co-founder, sees its potential to curb beer production emissions. McMahon told Food Tank, “This is a unique project and the focus is not to profit. It is to create something that we can then share with other people to adapt and use.”
Young Henrys signed onto this project with the University of Technology Sydney to reach carbon neutrality. To experiment with the effectiveness of its system, Young Henrys uses two bioreactors to cultivate algae. The first, a control, contains CO2, oxygen and algae. The second contains the same three components but is connected to a fermentation tank. As the fermentation process produces additional CO2, the gas flows into the bioreactor.
According to McMahon, at the end of each day, the control bioreactor consistently contains 50 percent less algae. This demonstrates that the algae in the experimental bioreactor successfully consumes the harmful greenhouse gas.
The hope is that this system not only can lower CO2 emissions from beer production, but also ultimately convert them into oxygen. This specific project will continue for one more year, but McMahon hopes that algae will continue to lower Young Henrys’ carbon emissions as it finds additional uses for the organism.