Athena, a French start-up supported by EIT InnoEnergy since 2020, has developed a method to produce hydrogen from bacteria fed with wastewater from food plants. In 2022, a mobile demonstrator of 1m3 will operate directly in different agri-food factories to produce hydrogen in a totally decarbonised, renewable and non-disposable way, using wastewater and organic effluents from these factories. A first industrial site will be constructed by the end of 2023, that will produce hydrogen with a target of 40 tons per year, which could be increased to 120 tons.
5 billion cubic metres of wastewater are treated each year in France. Thanks to this waste, Athena hopes to produce 10,000 tons of hydrogen by 2040.
The start-up Athena is based in Nantes, France, and has been founded in 2016. It is currently on a R&D phase.
“In the medium term, by 2025, the industrialisation phase will consist of multiplying the units, which requires a factory to manufacture them. The challenge will be to equip each industrial customer site. That is all the more important as it avoids the transport of effluents which generates additional CO2,” Ludovic Briand CEO of Athena, explains.
Ludovic Briand (CEO) and Romain Irague (Technical Director)
At the end of October 2021, the company, which has nine employees, received the Evolen Innovation Award for its project to produce biohydrogen from wastewater in the food industry. The principle, which has just been tested in the laboratory, is to use wastewater to feed carefully selected bacteria to produce a fermentation process that produces a gas composed of hydrogen and CO2. “As with other production processes, such as pyrogasification, the hydrogen must then be purified by separating it from the CO2, which is important to recover,” Ludovic Briand explains.
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