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Project

From Smokestack to Fish Snack

Black & Veatch Helps Design Facility to Transform CO2 Emissions into Alternative Protein Ingredients

Project Name
Pilot Plant Design
Location
Sunnyvale, CA
Client
NovoNutrients

Over 36 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide are emitted each year, impacting climate change and altering global temperatures and weather patterns.  NovoNutrients is transforming carbon dioxide emissions into alternative protein ingredients. It’s a rags-to-riches story for the eco-friendly age: unsustainable carbon emissions transformed into versatile, complex nourishment for the beings it once threatened. The proof is in the well-fed zebrafish floating around a vat in the NovoNutrients’ lab.

NovoNutrients’ flagship product is a protein flour composed of bacteria that were fed a diet principally consisting of carbon dioxide and hydrogen. The production process takes advantage of gas fermentation, a technique heralded as a game-changer for decarbonization, as it holds the power to convert industrial waste emissions into valuable products.

When it came time to start scaling-up production, NovoNutrients turned to Black & Veatch for its engineering and design expertise to collaborate on their first pilot plant. With more than 30 years’ experience as a market leader in carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) technologies, as well as ingredient manufacturing expertise, Black & Veatch was an ideal partner to turn NovoNutrients’ lab-tested concept into large-scale reality.

Black & Veatch collaborated with NovoNutrients to understand their goals and specifically the need for captured emissions and clean or green hydrogen. Black & Veatch consulted with the NovoNutrients team to design the large-scale equipment and pilot facility needed to grow the bacteria that make up NovoNutrients’ food system input products. Then, they built in the upstream and downstream production processes, enabling the transformation of flue gas to consumer products.

Flue gas emissions from a neighboring manufacturing facility would be captured, processed, and fed to bacteria that become the protein base for NovoNutrients’ protein flour. If the added hydrogen is made from renewable-energy-powered electrolyzers, the entire production process has the potential to be carbon-negative.

This is not the first time the sustainability-focused companies have collaborated. Black & Veatch first worked with NovoNutrients in 2019, when the startup joined the inaugural cohort of the IgniteX Growth Accelerator. Through that program, NovoNutrients gained access to opportunities for mentorship, access to Black & Veatch’s vast network, product testing, pitch development, investor introductions and funding. The project to design and construct NovoNutrients’ pilot plant is the second collaborative effort between the two companies.

David Tze headshot photo

“Teaming up with Black & Veatch gives us unmatched insight into the design, engineering and construction processes necessary to take our technology to a commercial level. In choosing to work with Black & Veatch, we created a genuine partnership with a company that shares our passion for innovation and clean technology--and gained some guidance along the way.”

- David Tze, CEO of NovoNutrients

"Our vision for the NextGen Ag team is focused on helping companies create better food for a better planet. Throughout the past few years, we’ve been excited to partner with NovoNutrients and help them realize their own vision, which aligns so well with ours,” said Zack Olson, Managing Director Black & Veatch NextGen Ag. “They continue to optimize a technology that can truly revolutionize the food industry and supercharge decarbonization, and we’re proud to be a part of this journey with them.”

NovoNutrients has big plans for their products. Once produced at commercial scale, the company hopes to sell its protein flour as commercial livestock feed for any farm using fishmeal, which includes fish, poultry and hog farmers. Down the line, the product could be used in alternative meat production for human consumption, further easing the environmental impacts of animal agriculture. Overall, the biotech startup hopes to provide a low-cost alternative to any industry requiring high-protein food system inputs. With the versatility provided by its gas fermentation, the possibilities are virtually endless.

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