Is Recycled Carbon The Answer To Decarbonising The Industrial Sector?17 May, 2023 / Articles
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Air travel and cattle farming may be getting a lot of attention as two big climate culprits of our times, but the often overlooked industrial sector is one of the largest emitters of greenhouse gases. However, emerging breakthroughs in circular economy solutions have enabled the capturing and recycling of carbon for use in industry – could this be the key to tackling the elephant in the construction sector’s CO2 room?
Carbon capture technologies have been developed that can capture carbon emissions at their source – acting like a chimney filter that prevents the damaging molecules from escaping into the atmosphere. The CO2 can then be repurposed to create raw materials that, in turn, can be used by the industrial sector.
The BluePlasma consortium is one such climate tech startup, currently setting up an R&D pilot project to convert captured CO2 into CO via plasma technology. This carbon monoxide can then be used in many different industries, such as metallurgy and petrochemistry.
Eric De Coninck, Group CTO project manager at Arcelor Mittal explains that; “the production of steel is a difficult process to electrify. However, the availability of renewable electricity is the engine behind the decarbonisation of energy-intensive companies.
“Hydrogen is a reducing gas that can be used to convert ore into steel by producing H2 with renewable electricity, but this requires new furnaces. Despite that, the centuries-old steel production processes, such as the highly optimised blast furnaces or DRI furnaces, mainly use CO as a reducing gas, derived from coal.
“The BluePlasma project, which converts CO2 emissions back into CO, can therefore become a means to electrify and decarbonise the existing production resources, at a low cost, by greatly reducing the use of coal. In addition, part of the CO can be supplied as raw material for plastics to neighbouring chemical companies.”
Plasma technology is not new, but the efficiency to convert carbon dioxide to carbon monoxide has traditionally been low. In cooperation with D-CRBN, the University of Antwerp has developed a new process in which the efficiency is at least five times higher. That makes it possible to ‘harvest’ CO2 and reuse it locally. In addition to storage and electrification, plasma technology is becoming an important third avenue to ensure that less CO2 is released into the atmosphere.
Carbon Clean is another climate tech startup that specialises in capturing carbon at source. It’s a fully modular carbon capture solution that can dramatically help to reduce the overall cost of carbon capture by up to 50%.
CO2 can also be mineralised – converted into useful minerals including sodium bicarbonate and limestone, a mineral often used in concrete. The mineralisation process can be used to create rocks of all sizes, including concrete.
Capturing and sequestering carbon is key to achieving carbon neutrality by 2030, and it’s a sector of climate tech that’s expected to grow significantly and see continued innovation in coming years.
However, it’s not all smooth sailing for the carbon capture sector, with researchers for the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) having highlighted the underperformance of many carbon capture projects.
For sectors of heavy industry that have typically been hard to decarbonise, however, it’s a promising development towards a whole new way of operating – a circular economy approach that will help meet growing consumer demand for products made in a sustainable way.