Electrochaea GmbH, a European provider of renewable methane technology, has established a California-based US subsidiary, Electrochaea Corporation, to accelerate the commercial roll-out of its technology in North America.
Electrochaea employs a patented biocatalyst (BioCat) to convert low-cost and stranded electricity and CO2 into pipeline-grade renewable gas. This gas can be directly injected into the existing natural gas grid or used immediately. The core of the power-to-gas (P2G) technology is the proprietary biocatalyst that can be deployed in a simple and cost-effective energy conversion system.
Electrochaea’s proprietary biocatalyst is a selectively evolved—i.e., not genetically engineered—strain of methanogenic archaea, a single-celled microorganism that has populated Earth for billions of years. These organisms can be found in a broad range of habitats, including some of the most extreme environments on the planet, such as volcanic hot springs, salt lakes, in addition to that, oceans and soils, among others. The strain of archaea used in Electrochaea’s P2G process has been adapted for industrial application by Prof. Laurens Mets at the University of Chicago.
The archaea exhibit several unique properties including high mass conversion efficiency, tolerance to many contaminants typically found in industrial CO2-sources (oxygen, hydrogen sulfide, particulates), high selectivity in methane production, and very fast reaction kinetics that enable scale-up to commercial application.
Electrochaea is currently pursuing energy storage via a two-step P2G system that uses an off-the-shelf electrolyzer to produce hydrogen. This hydrogen is then fed to a separate bioreactor containing the archaea along with carbon dioxide from a biogenic or industrial source.
Because of the high selectivity of the archaea, minimal post-reaction gas treatment is needed before the product gas is injected into the gas grid. Oxygen and heat are by-products from the process and can be sold in a broad range of different markets, either on-site or off-site.
Over the past six years, Electrochaea has successfully developed renewable methane from the lab to industrial-scale pilot plants in Denmark and Switzerland, feeding the national gas grids.
In 2019 the company opened a third pilot plant at the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) with support from SoCalGas. The company has several renewable methane projects under development in the US as it moves forward with commercial roll-out in North America.
The business development activities of the new US subsidiary will focus on development and execution of commercial opportunities and partnerships in the United States, Canada and Mexico. Electrochaea’s headquarters, with laboratories, engineering and business functions, will remain in Munich.
In August, Electrochaea announced it was receiving an EU grant of €2.5 million and an equity investment of €15 million for the scaling up of its technology and construction of the first standard 10-megawatt (MWe) plant.