05 October 2022

Almost for nothing

Cemvita microbes can produce hydrogen at a price of $1 per kilogram

Georgy Golovanov, Hi-tech+

Having tested its technology in the laboratory and in the field, Cemvita is ready to start producing hydrogen on an industrial scale. The essence of the company's innovation lies in the use of special microorganisms in depleted oil fields, which, by absorbing it, will produce pure hydrogen at a price of $ 1 per kilogram. In laboratory tests, the production price was less than 17 cents per kg.

A kilogram of hydrogen under normal conditions occupies a volume of 11.2 cubic meters – VM.

For the first time, humanity thought of using microbes to its advantage at least 13,000 years ago, when people began to brew the first beer. Now that we have learned how to edit genes, new opportunities have opened up for scientists. And the emergence of neural networks has greatly simplified the process of correlating individual sections of the genome with the behavior of the microorganism.

Cemvita deals mainly with microbes that feed on hydrocarbons — in particular, crude oil. By fermenting it, they release hydrogen and carbon dioxide, which bubble up from the surface, the company's press release reports. It remains only to catch it and separate H 2 from WITH 2.

Cemvita suggests using these microorganisms in spent oil wells — where there is still oil left, but it is already too expensive to extract it and, therefore, it is not economically profitable. But there is still enough food for microbes, in addition, there is the necessary infrastructure that can be turned into biological hydrogen farms.

To do this work, the microorganisms were genetically modified, but too much so that they could not be classified as genetically modified (this would entail additional difficulties during certification).

The developers have set a goal — to achieve the cost of the resulting hydrogen at less than $ 1 / kg. In the laboratory, the microbes performed perfectly, exceeding the plan by six and a half times. Then they were tested in real conditions, in one of the wells in west Texas. As a result, the hydrogen level rose three times compared to the initial indicators.

If the expectations of Cemvita employees are met, then this technology will allow obtaining hydrogen in one of the cheapest ways. But first, scientists will have to prove to regulatory authorities that the edited microorganisms do not pose a danger to the environment.

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