Gas Fermentation: CO2 and CO as feedstock for high value compounds

For almost a decade, Bio Base Europe Pilot Plant is collaborating with Arcelor Mittal on the development of sustainable fermentation processes that can convert industrial steel mill gases into added value products.

Microbes, it is all about microbes! The more than 2000 years old and most popular fermentation process uses yeast to convert malt and grape sugars into alcohol for beer and wine production. In the beginning of the 20th century moulds were isolated that produce antibiotics and from the 60s onwards, microbes are used to produce enzymes that are used in washing powders to more effectively clean clothing at lower temperatures.

Nowadays, there is a plethora of daily life and industrial products that are produced through fermentation and we could not imagine a world without them, ranging from food ingredients, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, biochemicals, bioplastics, biomaterials, biopesticides and many more.

In most industrial fermentation processes, the feedstock used is sugar. However, in the past 20 years, researchers around the globe have identified and modified microbes that can grow on gaseous CO2 and/or CO as a carbon source. Several processes have been developed of which some have been industrialized, others are still in pilot phase.

In 2012, the Bio Base Europe Pilot Plant validated several fermentation processes for the production of ethanol from waste CO, a byproduct in the steelmaking, finally leading to an intensified collaboration between Arcelor Mittal and LanzaTech and the 165 million euro investment in the STEELANOL gas fermentation plant on the premises of Arcelor Mittal Ghent. This demonstration plant will produce 60 million litre sustainable transport fuel from waste gasses. (more info:

Since then, many new microbes have been tested for their potential to produce other added value compounds such as acetic acid, lactic acid, fatty acids and more and it is expected that in Europe and the rest of the world, new factories will be built that utilize industrial CO2 or CO as a feedstock.

10 Liter gas fermentator at Bio Base Europe Pilot Plant

Aerial view STEELANOL fermentation site @Arcelor Mittal, Ghent (construction ongoing, Oct 2020)