Saudi farmers swap grass for gas

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LONDON: Saudi Arabia and Denmark are developing a patented process to convert natural gas into high protein livestock feed. The Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA) and Denmark’s Unibio have struck an initial agreement worth $200 million to develop the concept.

Unibio plans to develop a facility in the Kingdom that will utilize its patented fermentation process, which converts natural gas into high-protein livestock feed.

With a growing population, this project represents an important step toward achieving food security for the Kingdom by providing a sustainable and economically viable source of animal feed products, said SAGIA Governor Ibrahim Al-Omar. The importance of this project is that it uses a clean and abundant natural source in the Kingdom, and produces a high-quality protein supplements to feed fish, poultry and livestock, in addition to the transfer of advanced technology to the Kingdom.

The project aims to decouple protein production from farming and fishing while instead using abundant natural gas. Research into developing synthetic proteins as alternative food sources is being driven by a rapidly expanding global population which is expected to rise by a third to 9.8 billion by 2050. Rising wealth levels also produces a corresponding rise in protein consumption.

Unibio claims its technology also provides an environmentally friendly alternative to the practice of gas flaring in the energy industry.

It estimates that nearly 140 billion cubic meters (or 5.3 trillion cubic feet) of natural gas are being flared and vented annually by the oil industry. That is the equivalent of about a quarter of total US gas consumption.

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