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The use of carbon dioxide in microbial electrosynthesis: Advancements, sustainability and economic feasibility

Lookup NU author(s): Xenia Christodoulou, Tobechi Okoroafor, Dr Simon Parry, Dr Sharon Velasquez Orta



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


This study examines the latest advancements on the field of Microbial ElectroSynthesis (MES) and reports a unique sustainability and economic assessment for the production of five alternative compounds (formic, acetic, propionic acids; methanol or ethanol). Different chemical production conditions were compared by modelling a 1000 tonnes per year production plant. Three sustainability indicators; net energy consumption (NEC), energy gain (EG) and global warming ratio (GWR), were used; along with three economic indicators: production cost, pay-back period and discounted cash flow rate of return. NEC analysis revealed substantial energy requirements for synthesis and purification due to the use of CO2 and the formation of water molecules during production. EG values suggested that the process energy requirement for the production of formic acid (1.2) and methanol (2.0) were lower than for conventional processes. MES was shown to use more carbon emissions for methanol, ethanol and formic acid synthesis than those produced. The economic analysis showed that none of the evaluated products had a pay-back period. However, production costs were found to be competitive with the market only for formic acid (0.30 £/Kg) and ethanol (0.88 £/Kg). Moreover, high returns were evaluated for formic acid (21%) and ethanol (14%) compared to the minimum requirements of the industry (11.60%) making these products economically attractive. Our findings reveal insights about the use and scale up of MES for a sustainable and economically viable chemical production process.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Christodoulou X, Okoroafor T, Parry S, Velasquez-Orta S

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of CO2 Utilization

Year: 2017

Volume: 18

Pages: 390-399

Print publication date: 01/03/2017

Online publication date: 19/03/2017

Acceptance date: 31/01/2017

Date deposited: 13/02/2017

ISSN (print): 2212-9820

ISSN (electronic): 2212-9839

Publisher: Elsevier


DOI: 10.1016/j.jcou.2017.01.027

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Funder referenceFunder name
BH141833Newcastle University - Internally Funded Projects