EnCO2re is a flagship programme within EIT Climate-KIC’s Sustainable Production Systems theme. Its vision is to activate a market in re-used CO2 by establishing a CO2 value chain, with the eventual aim of establishing large-scale CO2 re-use that will contribute to Europe’s industrial circular economy.
Carbon capture and utilisation (CCU) is becoming increasingly feasible, both economically and environmentally. Recovered CO2 can be captured for re-use as an industrial feedstock and transition fuel. It can be used directly – as dry ice or in fire extinguishers, for example – or in the production of a wide range of industrial applications, from foams, fibres and rubbers to fuels and building materials.
However, CCU is currently limited by technological, regulatory and business barriers. Many of the core technological processes are only proven at the laboratory scale and require significant development to scale up. Current regulatory schemes do not encourage CCU, nor do they recognise it as a useful technology. But perhaps the biggest barrier is the business case; awareness of CCU is low, and therefore demand from producers and consumers does not yet exist.
The EnCO2re project is a collaboration between EIT Climate-KIC and polymers leader Covestro, formerly known as Bayer MaterialScience, and 12 research partners across seven European countries. Its vision is to activate a dynamic market for re-used CO2 through four main areas of focus: exploring and mapping the value chains for re-using CO2; developing core technologies; analysing lifecycle and sustainability; and developing business models.
The impact of developing a value chain for re-used CO2 will be felt in several ways. Closing the CO2 loop in industrial value chains will reduce both emissions and the use of new fossil fuels. Re-used CO2 can be used as a renewable energy storage solution. The re-use of CO2 is one of Europe’s most promising industrial innovation areas and can boost Europe’s innovation capacity. In June 2016, Covestro opened a plant producing re-used CO2 foam made with 20 per cent CO2 at its Dormagen site near Cologne, Germany. The plant has an annual production capacity of 5,000 metric tonnes.
This is a breakthrough, according to Ted Grozier, EnCO2re’s programme manager. “The opening of the Dormagen plant takes us from the theoretical potential to reality. And that is a good sign for the future of CO2 re-use,” he says. “By producing this material, Covestro is giving its customers a new way to reduce the footprint of their products.”
EIT Climate-KIC’s involvement
EIT Climate-KIC has provided vital funding for the project and has been a key facilitator in bringing together this consortium from the worlds of business and academia in order to move CCU forwards.