Big picture - Why invest in Unibio
UniProtein®, the end-product resulting from UniBio’s U-Loop technology, addresses the world’s growing need for animal protein, which will continue to increase in line with population growth and the emergence of a large middle class with a high purchasing power.
UniProtein® is a protein-rich biomass (72.9% protein) and can be used as a direct supplement in animal feed compounds. UniProtein® takes the form of a free-flowing reddish brown, granule with a particle size of 150-200 μm. It has a long shelf life, and the production process always results in a uniform product.
The product is not genetically manipulated but is the result of a natural process industrialized by Unibio. UniProtein® is a non-polluting product, as it is produced by a microbial culture with natural gas as the sole carbon and energy source. The only waste product from the production of UniProtein® is clean water. The product is free from toxins, dioxin and heavy metals due to the controlled production process and the fact that all minerals used are food grade.
UniProtein® was approved for animal nutrition in EU in July 1995 according to Commission Directive 95/33/EC. Under new EU Commission regulations introduced in June 2011 (No 575/2011) the requirement for a general pre-market authorization for UniProtein® in feedstuffs was abolished.
UniProtein® is well suited as a feed ingredient for animals with a short life span. The product has been tested as feed for salmon, calves, pigs and chickens with positive results in terms of acceptance and growth.
UniProtein® is a close substitute to high-quality fishmeal (LT Fishmeal), but it can also substitute soybean meal, both being two increasingly scarce resources (see amino acid composition tab on the left for a comparison with LT Fishmeal).
If it is used as an additive for humans or for animals with long life spans, the UniProtein® content of nucleic acids will become a problem, since it can cause kidney and bladder stones. To offset this, the nucleic acids are neutralized through hydrolysis with an insignificant loss of protein. After this process the product can be used as an additive for human food. The taste is neutral, and even a – nutritionally very poor – diet of corn porridge can be turned into an excellent diet. Other products that can be derived from the hydrolysed primary product are flavour enhancers, which can replace the now forbidden ”Bovril” derived from bone meal. A long range of adhesives can also be produced from the hydrolysed product giving Unibio access to a profitable market outside the food sector.
ARTICLE - The Danish Government will guarantee a 10 per cent equity financing of a Joint Venture Company involving the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and a Danish firm, Unibio A/S Limited.
Unibio is committed to the continuous development of the U-Loop design and product applications with sustainability in focus.
The use of feed mix for animals has a certain impact on the environment in terms of how the leftovers from the animals affect the surroundings. The EFPro2 project supported by Innovation Fund Denmark aims at the development of tailor-made protein to target specific species of animals.
The goal of the project is to prove that an amino acid profile specifically designed for pigs will:
lead to higher productivity
use less additives in the feed mix
add fewer nitrates to the surroundings
Click on the below tabs to read more about UniBio’s commitment to sustainability:
• About 140 billion cubic metres (5 trillion cubic feet) of natural gas are being flared and vented annually.
Why not use this gas to feed the world?
With the Unibio technology it is possible to produce approx. 70,000,000 tonnes of UniProtein® by using the gas otherwise flared. UniProtein® is comparable to high-quality LT fishmeal. In 2014 the average price of one Metric Ton of Peru CIF fishmeal was USD 1921.47
The UniBio technology enables venting and gas flaring to be reduced as it utilizes an environmentally harmful gas in the production of single cell protein
• Nearly 140 billion cubic metres (or 5.3 trillion cubic feet) of natural gas are being flared and vented annually by the oil industry
• The gas flared annually is equivalent to 25% of the United States’ gas consumption, 30% of the European Union’s gas consumption, or 75% of Russia’s gas exports. The gas flared yearly also represents more than the combined gas consumption of Central and South America
• The annual 35 bcm (or 1.2 trillion cubic feet) of gas flared in Africa alone is equivalent to half of that continent’s power consumption
• Gas flaring has a global impact on climate change by adding about 400 million tonnes of CO₂ to annual emissions
• Fewer than 20 countries account for more than 70% of gas flaring and venting. And just four countries together flare about 70 billion cubic metres of associated gas.
Estimated Flared Volume from Satellite Data (in bcm)
Production of UniProtein from natural gas versus flaring of natural gas
Q: How much CO₂ is formed by flaring 200 million m3 of natural gas?
A: When methane (which is the principal component of natural gas – about 92%) is flared at whichever temperature, it follows the reaction CH4 + 2 O2 > CO₂ + 2 H2O. As can be seen, 1 mol of CO₂ per mol of CH4 is formed, or 1 m3 CO₂ per m3 CH4.
The answer is thus: 200 million m3 CO₂ are formed. Expressed in tonne CO₂ , the answer is:
At 25 oC there is in 1 m3 CO₂ 1000/24.2 = 41.3 mol CO₂ = 1.818 kg. In 200 million m3
CO₂ there is thus 363 106kg = 363,000 tonnes CO₂
Q: How much CO2 is emitted by using 200 million m3 of natural gas for fermentation and production of SCP?
A: Production of SCP based on methane follows the reaction:
CH4 + 1.454 O2 + 0.105 NH3 > 0.520 X (biomass) + 0.480 CO2 + 1.69 H2O
Only 48% of the CO₂ resulting from the above answer is thus released. This equals 96 million m3 or
174,200 tonnes of CO₂ . By using 200 million m3 of natural gas for fermentation and
production of SCP instead of flaring it, a 52% reduction in CO₂ emissions is thus achieved.
Professor, dr techn, tekn.dr h.c.mult
The U-Loop technology is a process occurring in nature and industrialized by Unibio. The process is described in the below video.
The concept underlying Unibio’s U-Loop technology is simple: natural gas (methane) can be converted into a highly concentrated protein product which can be used in feed for animals (see diagram below).
The product has been branded UniProtein® and can substitute an increasingly scarce resource – fishmeal. On top of that, when the U-Loop technology is employed in production plants, CO₂ emissions are reduced by 52% as compared to when natural gas is burnt for producing electricity.
The U-Loop technology is patented under process patent No PA199900690. Unibio’s patent for U-shape and/or Nozzle-U-Loop fermentor and method of carrying out a fermentation process has been approved in Canada, Mexico and the US, and the patent for U-shape and/or Nozzle-U-Loop fermentor and method of fermentation has been approved in Mexico and is pending in Brazil, Canada, the EU and the US.
The continuous fermentation is operated with 2-3% biomass (dry matter) and a dilution rate of 0.20-0.25 h-1. The biomass of the harvest is concentrated to over 22% by centrifugation and then to approximately 30% by UHT at 70°C. In the process, the biomass is inactivated, and the cell undergoes lysis so that the protein becomes more accessible. Finally, the UHT-treated biomass is dried in a spray dryer with an integrated fluid bed. This gives a non-dusty agglomerated product.
Natural gas is the main raw material used in UniProtein® production, and it is used as the carbon and energy source. Technically pure oxygen is used for an oxygenation fermentation process, and ammonia is used as the nitrogen source. In addition to these substrates, the UniProtein® culture requires water, phosphate and several minerals including magnesium, calcium, potassium, iron, copper, zinc, manganese, nickel, cobalt and molybdenum. Sodium hydroxide and sulphuric acid are used for pH regulation. All chemicals are of food-grade quality. Phosphate is supplied as phosphoric acid, the minerals as sulphates, chlorides or nitrates. The pH is regulated to 6.5±0.3, and the temperature is kept at 45°C±2°C.
The fermentor and its design (see below) are the most important aspects of the U-Loop production process. In traditional stirred fermentors there are problems with achieving sufficiently small bubbles (large surface area of the gas), and there is a large energy waste due to inefficient stirring of the bulk liquid. Furthermore, there are problems with cooling when upscaling.
UniProtein® is produced in a continuous fermentation process. A U-Loop fermentor with static mixers is used. The U-Loop fermentor gives a high utilization of the gases, which are carried through the loop by the liquid flow in almost plug-flow mode. The gases are introduced at the start of the loop and stay in well-mixed contact with the liquid until they are separated in the headspace at the end of the loop.
The fermentor that is to be used in UniProtein® production is based on a patented U-Loop design developed in cooperation with DTU. The Nozzle U-Loop design makes it possible to obtain an optimal fermentation process with the highest possible product output (larger surface area) in the shortest possible time, i.e. 4kg/m3/h against 1.8kg/m3/h for conventional fermentors. There is about 30% energy saving in the Nozzle U-Loop fermentor. In addition, there is no need for mechanical stirring in the U-Loop fermentor.
In order to minimize the use of process water and to minimize the amount of waste water, process water from the centrifuges and ultrafiltration is returned to the fermentor after a short heat treatment.
Unibio is currently engaged in a number of projects.
The PROVIDE project
Unibio have been selected to form part of the PROVIDE project in cooperation with Innovation Fund Denmark.
The aim of the 5-year research project is to increase the value of residual products and optimize resource utilization. The project has a total investment of DKK 14,780,000 (GBP 1,764,000).
When companies extract certain constituent parts from potatoes, seaweed and single cell protein for use in various food and feed ingredients, large quantities of residual products with a very low value is the result. The residual products are currently often sold as animal feed or end up as waste products but the residues contain valuable proteins which, if they can be extracted cheaply and efficiently, are possible to use to produce different additives such as preservatives, flavours and emulsifiers.
In the PROVIDE project scientists from the Technical University of Denmark and Aalborg University, in cooperation with five companies including Unibio, aim to develop tools using knowledge about protein sequences to scan the residual product for valuable proteins with qualities that make them useful in the production of additives. The scientists also aim to develop tools for the cheap and efficient extraction of the exact protein parts which are to be used in this production.
The consumer benefit is that in the future many additives will consist of natural constituent parts of protein, which will increase the protein content of the finished food item.
Unibio’s U-Loop® technology allows the conversion of methane gas into a high-value bacterial protein product, Uniprotein®, which can replace fishmeal and soybean meal in animal and fish feed. Unibio’s vision to decouple protein production from farming and fishing, thus freeing up a larger share of the world’s agricultural land and fishing areas for the production of feed instead of protein for animal feed, may now be expanded to the world of food and feed ingredients by the future development of new products and utilization of all constituents through the PROVIDE project.
Unibio CEO Henrik Busch-Larsen states,”Taking part in the PROVIDE project is a big opportunity for Unibio. Besides collaborating with some very knowledgeable institutions and companies the focus on creating added value from our core protein product holds great potential for the company as so does the feasibility of an already very promising technology.”
The EFPro² project
Unibio has engaged in a project entitled Environmentally Friendly Protein Production with grant support from Innovation Fund Denmark. This project is made in collaboration with DTU, SDU (University of Southern Denmark), Aarhus University and Vestjyllands Andel.
The project will construct a U-Loop fermentation pilot plant in a DTU-owned building in Lyngby with a 100 litre pilot plant with focus on optimizing Unibio’s fermentation technology. This unit will provide the needed conditions for testing and evaluating products based on methanotrophic bacteria.
Simultaneously, the EFPro² project will concentrate on developing and optimizing UniProtein+, a specialized protein for pigs, to develop a methodology to produce different amino acid profiles fitting the physiological demand for protein and amino acids of pigs (including piglets), thus supporting the request for enhancing the environmental performance of feed production.
It is the composition of the protein in terms of essential amino acids (rather than the content in crude protein) that determines its quality and feeding value. Pigs must ingest different quantities of all essential amino acids in the protein before they can use it for maximum feed efficiency and rate of gain.
For example, lysine, the most important limiting essential amino acid in pig feed, is present at relatively low levels in most grains, and as a result protein supplements have to be mixed with grains to provide the minimum lysine needed by the animal. Though lysine is already available commercially as a supplement, other amino acids like leucine, isoleucine and histidine are only available from crop and meal ingredients. This is why the tailoring of the UniProtein+ amino acid profile represents a keystone of this project.
The success criterion for the EFPro² project is a proven ability to commercially produce a feedstuff that enables the production of a higher quality pig feed with lower costs than those observed today, through the substitution of a maximal amount of crop and meal ingredients in compound pig feed.
SDU will take a key research role in the project with the aim of providing state-of-the-art Life Cycle Assessments (LCA) quantifying the environmental consequences of various protein supply strategies for today and the future. Through this, SDU will quantify to which extent it is possible, through the optimized UniProtein+ as well as through other protein supply strategies, to decouple protein supply from land use.
The LCAs to be performed will include:
- The development of a methodology, in collaboration with VA, to quantify changes in overall feed formulation as a result of a changed protein supply, considering the detailed chemical composition of each ingredient. This has so far been disregarded in published LCA studies.
- A systematic quantification and assessment of land use changes impacts
- The implications of a change in price in various protein and carbohydrate ingredients
- The implications of various methane feedstock to produce Uniprotein+
- The implications of various future framework conditions for the energy system and land demand
- Strategies to prioritize the use of land
Jesper Halling Pedersen
Board of Directors
Jan Boeg Hansen
Chairman of the Board
Member of the Board
Sten Bay Jørgensen
Member of the Board
Member of the Board
Jesper Halling Pedersen
Member of the Board