Danish study 'validates' single cell protein technology: UniBio

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

© istock/cacaroot
© istock/cacaroot

Related tags Single cell protein Natural gas

Alternative feed protein producer, UniBio, said a new study demonstrates the fermentation technology used in its methane gas fed production process is efficient in terms of productivity and energy usage.

“The peer reviewed validation of our technology is important for our future plans, for industry, for investors, and for all our stakeholders,”​ Henrik Busch-Larsen, CEO, told us

The Danish company’s U-loop fermentation based process enables natural gas to be converted into a single cell protein with an amino acid profile close to fishmeal, called UniProtein, for use in monogastric and fish feed. 

The model involves bacteria ‘eating’ the C1 connections in the methane gas, the bacteria then grow and are converted into protein granules through a traditional downstream process.

The paper​ published in the journal, Biotechnology and Bioengineering,​ documents how Unibio’s production system can handle a large volumetric gas fraction while providing a high gas to liquid transfer using limited power consumption:

“Mixing time decreased and mass transfer increased with increasing volumetric liquid flow rate and specific power input. This happened also for a large volume fraction of the gas, which was shown to have only minor effect on the power drawn from the pump impeller.

Very large mass transfer coefficients, considerably higher than those obtainable in an STR [stirred tank reactor]and previous tubular loop reactors, could be achieved in the U-loop fermenter equipped with static mixers at modest volumetric liquid and gas flow rates,”​ concluded the authors, who are based at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU).

The DTU and UniBio have long been collaborating on U-loop fermentation technology.

Busch-Larsen said the technology upgrades enabling the high gas transfer result in significant improvements in yields from the fermentation process, making its protein production process cost effective.

Facilities, licensing deals…

He said the market can expect to see “commercial quantities, in other words, thousands of tons of UniProtein on the market, by next year." 

A commercial scale plant in Kalundborg in Denmark is set to be up and running within months, continued the CEO.

We reported previously that UniBio had sold the entire output of that plant to Danish pig feed manufacturer, Vestjyllands Andel.

And, in May this year, Busch-Larsen told us the company had signed its first license deal in relation to its proprietary U-Loop technology. The arrangement will see a production facility with multiple U-Loop fermenters up and running in an Eastern European based site by the end of 2017.

“Other licensing deals are in the works, we will be disclosing more about those in the coming months. All I can say, at this point, is that they will be based outside of Europe,” ​said the CEO today.

UniBio continues to talk with investors in relation to capital raising, a process that is now being handled by a leading Scandinavian investment bank. “We are in a pre-IPO phase. Now we want to build additional value, expand capacity, build more plants. Later on we will look at carrying out an IPO,”​ said Busch-Larsen.  

Source: Biotechnology and Bioengineering

Published online ahead of print:​ DOI 10.1002/bit.26084

Title:Mixing and Mass Transfer in a Pilot Scale U-Loop Bioreactor

Authors:​ LAH Petersen, JV Sten, B Jørgensen, KV Gernaey

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