CO2 capture and recovery

By capturing CO2 and converting it into a new feedstock we can find a new source of clean carbon, from which to manufacture value-added products and zero-emission fuels.

In the battle against CO2, one of the root problems is that we use an energy system built on infrastructures that took more than a century to take its current form, but the energy transition requires building a new one with radically different geographical redistributions of its elements. Because the prevailing fossil energy supply has so far required neither storage technologies nor chemical processes to split water and activate CO2 on a large scale.

In parallel to this monumental work, the implementation of technologies that increase the possibilities of mineralising and transforming CO2 into other more value-added compounds such as plastics, fuels or building materials needs to be promoted. The funding available at all stages of development is still inadequate or insufficiently focused.

Many scientists are working to turn this crisis into an opportunity. We are at a crucial moment for our society; production processes need to be redesigned to move towards a circular economy, and this means reimagining carbon dioxide as a valuable raw material. Thanks to the latest advances in chemistry, catalysis and biocatalysis, we are getting closer and closer to being able to use CO2 as a sustainable carbon source. For Cefic, the largest association of the European chemical industry, recycling and harnessing the carbon in CO2 is a key challenge.2 and other gases such as carbon monoxide is one of the greatest opportunities to reduce environmental impacts and accelerate the transition to a circular economy.

Better solutions for capturing and storing carbon dioxide

This is obviously not an easy goal to achieve and therefore different technologies are being developed to address this problem in a coordinated and complementary way. Firstly, very significant improvements in carbon dioxide capture and storage have been achieved. These fall into two broad groups: systems to capture industrial greenhouse gas emissions and materials to trap carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere. The former are able to reduce emissions from production processes, while the latter could contribute to reducing the cumulative effects of the climate crisis by reducing the high amounts of CO2 atmospheric. Some methods include absorption by chemical reactions, forming salts derived from carbon dioxide such as carbonates, cryogenic distillation, and separation by means of selective adsorption membranes. Once we have achieved this goal and have the carbon dioxide fixed in different substances, chemical reactions come into play to transform it into high value-added products, both fuels and raw materials for industry.