Carbon capture and utilisation could contribute in green economy

by Jasmina Nikoloska

Investing in techniques of utilising CO2 is nothing new and converting CO2 into commercially viable products such as bio-oils, chemicals, fertilisers and fuels could offer economic sense and possibility for reducing carbon emissions.

Carbon capture and utilisation (CCU) includes using waste CO2 as a chemical feedstock for the synthetics of other chemicals, as a chemical source of carbon for mineral carbonisation reactions to produce construction materials, and as a nutrient and CO2 source to make algae grow and supply fuels and chemicals.

Unlike US which is spending $1bn on CCU research, including a project at Sandia Laboratories to make synthetic diesel from carbon dioxide, and the German government is putting €118m into a project with Bayer to research the use of carbon dioxide as a raw material; Australia is seeking to manufacture cement using the carbon dioxide from power plants, and in several places around the world, algae is being cultivated that would absorb the gas and used as biofuels, UK currently has no plans for investment in demonstration scale of CCU technologies.

According to a report published by Centre for Low Carbon Futures, Carbon Capture and Utilisation in the Green Economy , CCU can be profitable with short payback times on investment, but UK is lagging behind most developed countries in terms of investment and focus on the technology with the majority of the research funding directed to towards Carbon Capture and storage (CCS).

Peter Styring, a professor at the University of Sheffield, one of the authors of the report said: “The UK government needs to invest in R&D for carbon capture and utilisation and investors need to be made aware of the potential benefits of the technology so that barriers can be brought down. Our report shows that all CCU options could be relevant to the UK and given its business-oriented academic community, the UK could benefit from the commercialisation of the technologies involved.”

He believes that there are real possibilities in CCU, although some of the technology has been developed, some is in the early stage and there are cases where a new chemistry needs to be developed.

In most conversion processes predicted for CCU is expected a high energy input but the report says that this could be provided by renewable energy, especially when wind or solar plants are producing energy at times of low demand.

However, the re-use of  CO2 will probably take years to adopt and suitable cost efficient technology to be developed, knowing that CO2 could be other than waste is worth to be investigated.

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