Hop26: Australian brewers fight climate change by feeding carbon to algae

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Young Henrys brewery co-founders Oscar McMahon (L) and Richard Adamson pour beer from their fermentation tanks at the brewery in Sydney, Australia (REUTERS)
Young Henrys brewery co-founders Oscar McMahon (L) and Richard Adamson pour beer from their fermentation tanks at the brewery in Sydney, Australia (REUTERS)

Australian beer makers have brewed up a novel way to fight climate change by 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 from the city’s University of Technology to set up two "bioreactors" filled with trillions of the tiny organisms.

Inside the two 400-litre (105.6-gallon) 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 said.

"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," Mr McMahon added.

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

The scientists have also linked up with 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 university’s climate change cluster.

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 pass any new laws focussed on meeting the goal.

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