Utilisation of CO2
The focus of NEG8 Carbon is to capture CO2 from the atmosphere (Direct Air Capture or DAC) and utilise it in decentralised applications. Ideally, we seek to capture carbon and use it in the same location to avoid the carbon penalty of moving the carbon. As summarised in another blog, “How do we Remove the 13%+ of Global Emissions Which Cannot be Tackled Using Traditional Methods“, to achieve global net zero for ‘difficult’ CO2 emissions in the long term, up to 10 billion tonnes a year needs to be captured from the atmosphere and utilised. This large scale usage will reduce the impact of climate change.
In this blog we look at;
1. Current uses of CO2 in the world and their replacement by carbon captured from the air.
2. Future uses of CO2
3. Sequestration of CO2
Current Usage of CO2
We use approximately 230 million tonnes (Mt) of carbon dioxide (CO2) annually. The largest consumer is the fertiliser industry where 130Mt of CO2 is used followed by the oil and gas industry at 80Mt for Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR). The remainder of 20Mt is used in the food and beverage industry, metal fabrication, cooling, fire suppression and for stimulating plant growth in greenhouses. CO2 from the air can be substituted for about 100Mt annually of this usage.
We need action at Government policy level to encourage the use of recycled carbon in these applications
Future Uses of CO2
The most promising areas of usage are;
– Building materials.
CO2 can be used in the production of building materials and has the potential to enhance the product quality and to sequester CO2 for millennia. With a favourable regulatory environment and investment by industry and research partners, this usage could reach up to 1.4 billion tonnes (Gt) per annum by 2050.
– Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR).
Due to the fact that most oil wells don’t have a convenient source of CO2, there is a significant potential to expand its usage with carbon from DAC thereby achieving net zero carbon emissions with this technology. While fossil fuels continue to be needed, CO2 can be used for EOR at the same time sequestering large amounts of CO2 for centuries. This usage could reach up to 1.8 Gt/year.
– CO2 as a fuel.
Combining hydrogen with CO2 can produce hydrocarbon fuels and replace fossil fuels for high energy applications e.g. shipping, heavy duty vehicles, aviation. For these fuels to be economic we need a cheap source of hydrogen. Ideally, regulators could mandate the use of off peak or surplus electricity for the production of hydrogen. This would allow us eliminate fossil sourced fuels and utilise up to 4.2 Gt CO2/year.
– CO2 as a new material
Carbon nanotubes and graphene are some of the latest man made materials which are currently used in specialised applications. The availability of large volumes of CO2 allows for the possibility of using carbon fibres for industrial wiring and the widespread replacement of steel and concrete by carbon composites.
Sequestration of CO2
There are many areas with mineral rich soils in the world that have the potential to hold much more carbon than at present. This is an area that grass-rich/forest-rich countries like Ireland need to explore with the soil scientists locally to investigate and realise the potential for this area of CO2 sequestration. Worldwide, up to 1.9 Gt/year could be sequestered with additional benefits of enhanced agricultural yields.
We can do something about climate change and help lead the world in the area of carbon capture and usage. We need active policies for carbon capture and reuse/sequestration which encourages investment by industry and academia to achieve the targets set out above. The window to impact climate change is closing and we need action now.
Sources used in this blog include
www.iea.org putting CO2 to use
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