Europe Hopes Home-Brewed Gas Can Help Meet Growing Power Needs

(Bloomberg) -- Scientists and investors are turning to a billion-year-old home brew to help meet Europe’s future natural gas needs and provide a way to store and deploy excess energy from solar and wind generation.

In the same way brewers use live yeast to turn sugar and starch into beer, European energy companies are relying on single-celled creatures called archaea to ferment carbon dioxide and hydrogen into methane — the main component of natural gas. The idea is to stop planet-warming emissions from escaping into the atmosphere by capturing CO₂ emitted when factories burn fossil fuels and using that to make more fuel.

The microorganisms that catalyze the process live in some of the most inhospitable places on Earth — including deeply buried gas reservoirs, where they can be fed a steady diet of industrial emissions and green hydrogen to replenish fuel reserves and store energy. From there, the methane can be injected directly into existing gas infrastructure and sent to factories, or stored underground where it effectively acts as a geochemical battery.