Houston-based synthetic biology company Cemvita Factory Inc. has just unveiled a jaw-dropping technique that uses oil-eating microbes to produce the world’s cheapest clean hydrogen.
In fact, the company claims to be able to produce hydrogen at less than $1 per kilogram (2.2 lbs).
And while the groundbreaking discovery may sound a little out there and almost too good to be true, it has already passed testing in both the lab and the field, meaning its commercial availability may be just around the corner.
Aside from producing outrageously cheap, clean hydrogen (i.e., the production of which does not release greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions into the atmosphere), the microbes consume oil, which makes them ideal to be injected in depleted oil wells.
That is precisely what Cemvita plans to do: add the microbes to oil wells, let them feed on oil and excrete clean hydrogen.
Microbes have been an inherent part of human history for thousands of years, playing a vital role in our food and beverage consumption, such as in the case of yeast used for brewing wine or beer.
Today, science has evolved to the point where genetic engineering has opened up a whole range of new possibilities to put different microorganisms to work.
And with the help of artificial intelligence, scientists can now pinpoint the exact parts of genetic code that are responsible for specific desirable behaviors to repeat them and boost the microbe’s performance.
Cemvita does precisely that.
The company has been focusing its efforts on microbes that consume hydrocarbons, such as crude oil, and ferment them only to excrete CO2 and hydrogen.
Cemvita intends to pump these microbes into the depleted oil wells and capture the excreted gasses, as they bubble up to the top of the wells.
Next in the process is the separation of hydrogen for sale and processing and carbon dioxide for sequestration.