Exploring the possibilities of using CO2 as an industrial feedstock

Re-using CO2 emissions as an industrial feedstock has potential for widespread application and could be a powerful tool for climate change mitigation. A benchmarking assessment of established and potential CO2 reuse areas will support innovation in this sector.

The climate change issue

With 34.5 billion tons of carbon dioxide emitted over 2012, CO2 is one of the major contributors to anthropogenic climate change. Although carbon capture and storage (CCS) is already high on climate change mitigation agendas, unfortunately, less is being said about the utilisation of captured carbon or CO2 from other industrial sources (CDU). The primary advantage of CDU over only CCS is the ability to produce a saleable product, thereby using CO2 as an industrial feedstock for fuels, chemicals and materials. In this way, it has the potential to offset the cost of development of CO2 capture technologies, whereas CCS alone requires the application of strict penalties or economic support for uptake by industry. CDU might be considered as an added value as a part of the CCS value chain. Furthermore, the use of CO2 apart from CCS has the additional benefit of displacing some of the need for conventional oil and gas feedstocks, a key driver for chemicals companies.

While CO2 is already being used as an established feedstock in some commercial areas, there are many applications whose potential are yet to be fully explored, as well as some emerging technologies that are currently on the edge of being applied.

The project solution

The main objective of the B-COR pathfinder project was to identify benchmarking criteria to assess potential processes for the utilisation of CO2. This has resulted in a review of the scientific and technical literature with a science and engineering-based analysis and definition of a set of key benchmarking criteria. Moreover, some promising processes have been identified as model technologies, such as algal utilisation of CO2 and processing to fuels (ie bio-diesel), conversion of CO2 to organic carbonates (ie plastics, coatings and paints), conversion of CO2 to polyurethanes (used, among others, for mattresses, shoes and insulation) and conversion of CO2 to formic acid (for use as an industrial chemical feedstock but also potentially as a fuel). Each of these routes has been investigated using the benchmarking criteria in regards to their mitigation benefits, economic factors and innovation potential.

The role of Climate-KIC

“Climate-KIC, with its wide network all over Europe, has not only helped us to get our partners together, they also turned out to be very active in the field and helpful in seeing the potential for the development of a benchmarking tool beyond the project. The co-operation between academics, with their extensive knowledge on the subject, and companies, bringing in their market insights, was essential to the project and has resulted in an incentive to take the benchmarking tool further in future projects.” Erin Kimball, TNO