The top 20 ways to capture and make use of carbon

June 27, 2016 |

BD Hot 20 CO2.smIt was back in 2010 that the first large-scale set of projects were funded to to test innovative concepts for the beneficial use of carbon dioxide, part of a Recovery Act investment into carbon capture technology. The DOE pumped $106 million into the effort.

12 projects did phase 1 feasibility studies, six went on to a Phase 2. They included an Alcoa project to convert CO2 into soluble carbonates, and a Skyonic and one Calera project to do the same, via different paths; a Novomer project to make plastics, a Touchstone project to make algae, and a Phycal project that also made algae.

Six years later, where are we in the global hunt for a commmercially-feasible technology that makes a useful product that utilizes CO2? There’s a host of technologies that have risen us — some based on  point-source (pre-emission) CO2 or post-emission (that is, atmosphericCO2).

The Carbon XPRIZE

And, there’s $20 million on the line, because the first teams have registered in the NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE to develop breakthrough technology to help fight climate change.   The challenge is to take CO2 emissions from fossil fuels at source (straight from coal-fired power plants and natural gas facilities) and transform them into one or more useful products.  Twelve teams have entered to compete so far, representing start-ups, researchers and industry professionals from Asia, North America and Europe.  Three feature on our Hot 20 today.

While registration for the NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE competition is still underway until July 15, these first-on-board teams demonstrate the diversity of approaches to solve a global problem.

A terrific overview

The definitive review on CO2 conversion we’ve seen appeared in I&EC Research last year written by  Zhihong Yuan and Mario R. Eden*at Auburn and Rafiqul Gani at the Technical University of Denmark. It’s here and a must-read.

The authors note:

It is very important to emphasize that capital cost and conversion efficiency are two issues affecting the sustainable development and deployment of promising CO2 conversion routes on a large scale. Because of the very low efficiency and productivity, single-step electrochemical and photochemical CO2 conversion technologies are unlikely to be deployed in the near/medium future. Instead, the rapid progress in technologies for renewable electricity production, especially the achievements in wind energy and perovskites photovoltaic cells, will be capable of deploying a combination of electricity-/solar-driven H2 production in the near/medium future. Direct hydrogenation of CO2 to methanol has been industirally implemented; however, they cannot be economically deployed on a large scale in the near future. 

They further encourage and warn:

The successful implementation of CO2 capture/conversion processes on a large scale can bridge the gap between fossil fuels and renewable energy. No singular solution is capable of addressing this complex problem. Interdisciplinary collaboration across materials, chemistry, catalysis, separation, process engineering, and environmental engineering is essential. Strategic integration of different technologies across broad temporal and spatial scales, from material design/synthesis at the molecular/atomic level to the plant-wide CO2 capture and conversion process design at the macroscopic level and environmental/social impact assessment at the enterprise level, is necessary and provides a powerful means for accelerating the development, scale-up, and commercialization of cost-effective and energy-efficient large-scale CO2 capture/conversion processes. Strategic partnerships between academia, industry, and governments are needed to take on this challenge, as it is too big to address by any one party.

Screen Shot 2016-06-27 at 10.39.37 AMThe 20 Hottest Techs for Carbon Capture and Use

In today’s Digest, we are profiling the 20 Hottest Techs in CO2 utilization for fuels, chemicals, solids, intermediates. They’re here.

Now, keep in mind, we’re not declaring who are the best — for that, only time will tell. Rather, we’re focusing on companies that have so far achieved the highest degrees of visibility and credibility to date.

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