All CDDRL Publications Journal Articles Nature Sustainability 5 47–56 (2022)

Displacing fishmeal with protein derived from stranded methane

Stanford researchers reveal how to turn a global warming liability into a profitable food security solution

January 25, 2022

Methane emitted and flared from industrial sources across the United States is a major contributor to global climate change. Methanotrophic bacteria can transform this methane into useful protein-rich biomass, already approved for inclusion into animal feed. In the rapidly growing aquaculture industry, methanotrophic additives have a favourable amino acid profile and can offset ocean-caught fishmeal, reducing demands on over-harvested fisheries. Here we analyse the economic potential of producing methanotrophic microbial protein from stranded methane produced at wastewater treatment plants, landfills, and oil and gas facilities. Our results show that current technology can enable production, in the United States alone, equivalent to 14% of the global fishmeal market at prices at or below the current cost of fishmeal (roughly US$1,600 per metric ton). A sensitivity analysis highlights technically and economically feasible cost reductions (such as reduced cooling or labour requirements), which could allow stranded methane from the United States alone to satisfy global fishmeal demand.