A new opportunity

Increasingly, CO2 emissions represent a liability for industrial emitters. However, emerging technologies can turn this liability into an asset. By Dr. Issam Dairanieh

Rising atmospheric, carbon dioxide concentrations have been tied to both climate change and ocean acidification. The UN Framework Convention on Climate called for stabilisation of greenhouse gas concentrations below levels that would cause dangerous interference in the climate system. The recent Paris Conference set that level at one that would create less than a two-degree Celsius increase in average global temperature, but suggested that restricting the change to 1.5 degrees may be even more appropriate. These goals will require the net emissions of carbon dioxide to be zero, if not negative in the second half of this century.

Mechanisms and policies have been identified to reduce carbon dioxide emissions or to increase natural absorption from the atmosphere. Demand reduction, improved efficiency, development of renewable resources and carbon capture and storage have all been proposed as solutions. In addition to these approaches, a number of policy options have been proposed, ranging from out-right bans on certain technologies to establishing a price on carbon

Recently, however, the idea of a price on carbon has been supplemented with the realisation that carbon dioxide itself has economic value. Carbon dioxide transformation and reuse can be a means to reduce emissions and, potentially, to remove carbon from the atmosphere for climatologically significant periods of time. The idea of carbon dioxide transformation (CDT) is not new, but its potential significance has been largely underestimated.

The Global CO2 Initiative (GCI) was launched in January 2016 to develop innovative approaches to transform CO2 into commercial products with sustained climatological benefit. A comprehensive assessment commissioned by GCI is the first to estimate the potential significance of CO2-based products. Using conservative assumptions and methodology, it projects that by 2030, CO2-based products could eliminate ten per cent of global emissions and generate annual revenues of $800 million to $1.1 trillion.

The Global CO2 Initiative (www.globalco2initiative.org/#ourapproach) has identified promising relevant technologies ranging from those in early stages of development to those that are mature and market-ready.

The market assessment explored several options such as the mature technology of enhanced oil recovery and the growing capability to use liquid fuels made from carbon dioxide as a mechanism for storing increasingly low-cost renewable energy. While the success of these two technologies depends on the price of oil, other technology opportunities do not. Carbon dioxide curing of cement and the manufacture of carbonate-based aggregates are market-ready. At the early stage of development, a new method for creating carbon fiber from carbon dioxide has been developed. As the technology advances driving down the cost of carbon fiber, uses will expand from the energy and transportation market potentially to high volume construction applications.

One challenge for the CDT is that in some instances, it requires advancement in capture technology. The Kemper County plant in the US is just coming on line and will provide critical experience in capture technology for coal. Perhaps even more critical is that solid oxide fuel cells not only provide a highly efficient use of natural gas, but also a much simpler path for carbon capture than post combustion processing or oxy-combustion.

The biggest single challenge is to produce CO2-based products at a scale necessary to make a difference. The annual global anthropogenic production of carbon dioxide has reached 37 billion tons. Capturing and using ten per cent of that total is a daunting logistical challenge. Achieving an impact of this scale is not going to be accomplished by a single company, a single technology or even a single industry. It does however come from a single idea: The private sector can turn carbon dioxide from a liability to an opportunity.

CDT technologies are emerging as important uses and commercial opportunities are growing. These technologies provide significant support for other approaches to emissions mitigation and environmental protection. Enhanced oil recovery not only retains carbon dioxide but also profitably builds an infrastructure that can be used for carbon dioxide capture and storage. Enhanced oil recovery may also serve as a cost effective alternative to exploration in difficult and environmentally sensitive areas such as the Arctic. The use of carbon dioxide in curing cement reduces production time and carbonate based aggregates can be used to neutralize thermal wastes. Carbon fiber not only stores carbon, but also result in more lightweight and efficient cars and aircraft. Additionally, carbon fiber will find use in improved wind turbines.

The Global CO2 Initiative is taking a comprehensive view of these technological opportunities, developing new approaches and investment in later stage technologies. The Initiative is engaging key stakeholders, forming partnerships along the value chain, to create new businesses and reduce emissions.

Dr. Issam Dairanieh is CEO, CO2 Sciences, Inc. CO2 Sciences, Inc., the Global CO2 Initiative’s innovative R&D platform, is structured to aggressively catalyse research and development in carbon capture and use by granting up to $100 million per year for ten years to many qualified research applicants throughout the world. In parallel, the Global CO2 Initiative will accelerate the commercialisation of CO2-based products and services. It will partner with investment funds, joint ventures, foundations, individuals and corporations to invest in companies to grow market demand for CO2-based products.

For further information please visit: globalco2initiative.org