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Researchers are hunting high and low for protein

In the search for enough protein to sate the world's growing population, researchers have turned their attention to oil rigs. Excess gas can be used to create protein.

 

Mealworms, seaweed and red clover. There are more people on the earth, and in line with the growing demand for meat, the need for protein is also growing. This means that there is great international interest in finding new and sustainable proteins for the food industry and for animal feed.

 

The growing demand for protein is forcing researchers to be creative. And creativity has led researchers from SDU Life Cycle Engineering to take a closer look at oil rigs.

 

- Bacteria can live off methane. The characteristic flame on oil rigs occurs when natural gas is burnt off. Natural gas consists primarily of methane. This can be harvested before it is burnt off, says Head of SDU Life Cycle Engineering, Associate Professor Henrik Wenzel.

 

Instead of being burnt off, the methane could be used to feed bacterial proteins which would end up as protein granules that could replace fishmeal and soya protein in the food troughs of pigs.

 

Denmark set to become bioeconomic growth centre

Henrik Wenzel is one of the researchers appointed by the Ministry of Environment and Food of Denmark to sit on the National Bioeconomy Panel. The experts on the Panel will advise the minister on new ways to produce and innovate sustainable food products, sustainable bioenergy and other bioeconomy matters.

 

At the first meeting, the Panel wil discuss how Denmark can become better at producing proteins and exploiting a growing market in animal feed and food product ingredients.

 

- A delegation from Nigeria - one of the world's biggest oil-producing countries - has visited our collaboration partner, UniBio. They are very interested in Danish research into bacterial proteins, says Henrik Wenzel.

 

Clover could replace protein from South America

As a life cycle researcher, Henrik Wenzel takes a holistic approach. He investigates the different protein sources' overall environmental impact and yield, and based on that concludes whether it is best for the environment - and the purse strings - to invest in mealworms, seaweed or something completely different in the search for proteins.

 

- One of the new protein sources that looks promising, when we're looking at environmental impact and yield, is red clover. It contains a lot of protein and has a long growing season, and once the protein and fibre has been extracted for food the rest of the plant can be used in biogas plants. Used in this way, the total system efficiency is very high, explains Henrik Wenzel.

 

He refers to results from colleagues from the research centre AU Foulum who have shown that 400,000 hectares planted with clover, grass and alfalfa could replace the import of soya protein from South America.


Sustainability

SDU Lifecycle Center contributes to the development of sustainable technologies and systems - and is committed to the development of industry, agriculture and social infrastructure.

SDU Life Cycle Engineering