High Level: Off-gases generated from iron and steel production contain significant amounts of carbon monoxide (CO), carbon dioxide (CO2) and in smaller quantity, hydrogen (H2). Microbial fermentation of this off-gas to produce renewable natural gas (RNG) by biomethanation, or H2 enriched syngas fuel by water gas shift reaction (WGSR) can substantially mitigate CO2 emissions of this industry, while simultaneously providing energy and reducing agents which can be incorporated directly back in the process, implementing carbon circularity in the process itself. We propose comprehensive assessments on 3 bioprocesses to bio-upgrade steel industry off-gas using small to medium-scale trickling bed reactors (TBR): mesophilic biomethanation, thermophilic biomethanation, and thermophilic WGS reaction to produce H2 with pure strains. Those assessments include process optimization, modelling, metagenomic studies, design, scale-up, and real gas testing. This research will allow to improve conversion rates and volumetric efficiency of those processes, which will ease their industrial adoption. The proposed technology can deliver great economic returns; efficient and clean methods that exceed the performance of current thermochemical treatment methods.
Specific objectives of the Master’s project
A metagenomic tool needs to be developed to help the team through the optimization process. This tool will give us crucial information about the population evolution and metabolic pathways used. All along the project, microbial community analyses will be conducted through a metagenomic approach on microbial populations. Such an approach will not only allow to characterize and monitor both bacterial and archaeal populations present in the reactors, but it will also enable us to determine the metabolic potential of those populations and how it could be modulated by the operational parameters applied to the TBRs.
First, the microbial community compositions and evolution will be determined by extracting the phylogenetic information from the metagenomic data collected from samples taken all along each process. This will allow to determine the initial population (inoculum) of the reactor, and to highlight microorganisms, or groups of microorganisms, stimulated/selected by the conditions applied. Microbiological markers of performance linked to an optimal CH4 production may thus be identified. In addition, bioinformatics reconstruction of metabolic pathways leading to CH4 or H2 production will be performed using the same metagenomic data. This will enable us to understand which biological functions and metabolic pathways are preferentially used under the applied conditions and possibly to identify stimulating/inhibiting conditions for these pathways.
Second, the same metagenomic approach will be applied to TBRs inoculated with microbial populations, but with a particular attention on the impacts of a bio-stimulating strategy on the microbial population dynamics depending on TBR’s zones. This will generate a better understanding of the spatial variability (in terms of functions and composition) of the microbial communities within the TBRs, and will allow us to design an optimized bio-stimulation strategy. This will allow us to know how to conduct bio-stimulation toward optimized processes, via several parameters as gas primary (CO, H2, CH4, N2, CO2) and secondary (contaminants) compositions, support material interaction, nutrients, etc. With this analysis the study of zones in reactors will also be implemented, as TBR populations are not homogenous and depend on substrate/product turnover profile through the bed.
Areas of research
Microbiology, molecular biology, bioinformatics
Philippe Constant (Professor, INRS) and Charles-David Dubé (Research officer, CNRC; Associate professor, INRS)
The student will receive financial support
National Research Council of Canada, 6100 Royalmount Avenue, Montreal, QC H4P 2R2
Hold a bachelor’s degree or equivalent in microbiology, biology, biochemistry, molecular biology, bioinformatics or other related field, present an academic record with a cumulative average of at least 3.0 (out of 4.3) or equivalent, or have the required knowledge, appropriate training and experience deemed relevant. Sufficient knowledge of French before starting school is required.
Questions about the project
Charles-David Dubé (Charles-David.Dube@nrc.ca)
Submitting an application
Interested candidates should use the form below to submit an application, including the following, a cover letter, a complete CV, as well as the contact details of two people who can be contacted to provide recommendations.