Using prokaryotes for carbon capture storage

Geological storage of CO2 is a fast-developing technology that can mitigate rising carbon emissions. However, there are environmental concerns with the long-term storage and implications of a leak from a carbon capture storage (CCS) site. Traditional monitoring lacks clear protocols and relies heavily on physical methods. Here, we discuss the potential of biotechnology, focusing on microbes with a natural ability to utilize and assimilate CO2 through different metabolic pathways. We propose the use of natural microbial communities for CCS monitoring and CO2 utilization, and, with examples, demonstrate how synthetic biology may maximize CO2 uptake within and above storage sites. An integrated physical and biological approach, combined with metagenomics data and biotechnological advances, will enhance CO2 sequestration and prevent large-scale leakages.

Trends

Microorganisms have the ability to respond quickly to environmental changes and to bind CO2, potentially removing it from the surrounding environment.

High-throughput sequencing can be used to identify the microbial metagenomic fingerprint, which can be used to develop simplified, efficient genetic methods to monitor CCS sites.

CCS monitoring would be most effective with a multidisciplinary monitoring program, combining geology, biogeochemistry, physics, microbiology, molecular biology, and genomics.

The advances in our knowledge in prokaryotic genomics, metabolic pathways, microbial communities, and the potential to engineer CO2 binding properties in microbes provide opportunities for transforming CCS sites into bioreactors for value-added chemicals.

Hicks N., Vik U., Taylor P., Ladoukakis E., Park J., Kolisis F. & Jakobsen K. S., 2017. Using prokaryotes for carbon capture storage. Trends in Biotechnology 35(1):22–32. Article (subscription required).

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