The world’s in a hurry now. Let’s use CO2 --for good.

March 22, 2024
Written by Jane Lalonde
Blog
A new carbon utilization technology is finally here

Scientists, engineers, companies, and policymakers are urgently pursuing new CCUS solutions to buy one thing: time. The time needed for renewables to reach a big enough scale to power people and the planet.

To buy this critical time, the International Energy Agency has estimated that we must capture and remove a minimum of 1.6 billion tons of CO2 by 2030 and five times that by 2050. It’s a big ask, and the world is in a hurry now.

I’m an optimist by birth and trade. So, let's assume that carbon capture is successful. What comes next? What do we do with all the billions of tons of CO2 gas? For me, these monumental questions will require many solutions beyond the current mindset: CO2 storage.

With carbon capture and storage, we’ll own tons and tons of CO2 that we’ve extracted from the air, power plants, and various dirty industrial sources. When that happens, logistics will be of greater focus. How do we affordably transport CO2 to where it’s being stored? How much does it cost to compress CO2 for storage? And who really pays those costs? Storage is just that: a sunk cost. There’s little money to be made from burying this material in the earth or undersea.

The more questions emerge, the more we dig into the problem, even for optimists. Who owns the problem of CO2 storage, and who’s really footing the bill?

CO2 storage is an odorless, colorless hot potato in Washington. Paradoxically, CO2 storage alone is inadequate (or too expensive) to meet the demands of successful carbon capture. The more successful carbon capture becomes, the more problems it will create for those tasked with storing this substance after it’s recovered from the atmosphere.

So, last year, I heard about a new technology from Dr. David Soane and his team at Carbogenesis that could resolve this paradox. This brand-new technology shatters the fundamental chemical and engineering limitations that have, to date, prevented us from successfully and scalably using CO2. So, I went to work for them.

The Carbogenesis breakthrough allows CO2 to be repurposed and converted into other useful chemicals, opening up economically attractive possibilities for commercial-scale CO2 utilization. CO2 now becomes a resource for making other chemicals instead of a waste product to be discarded and entombed.

If CO2 can be used to make other products, imagine the possibilities and the economic upside. I am not suggesting that Carbogenesis offers the only option for CO2 utilization. However, it represents a new way of thinking and a new technology in which CO2 transitions from being a liability on the spreadsheet into an asset.

“If there is still hope for widespread CCUS as the solution for oil and gas production, $3.5 trillion in investment will be needed every year from now to 2050.” --IEA, November 2023.

Today, storage (CCS) has billions of dollars earmarked already, and economists believe trillions will be needed, so perhaps that ship (and the pipelines that feed it) has sailed.

But remember storage is not a circular solution; reuse is. Storage is not a profitable solution; reuse is. So, I am calling for O&G companies to complement their storage strategies with transformative options for using CO2 as a resource – because, occasionally, a new technology solves a massive problem and helps change the world. This is one of those times.

“Occasionally, a new technology solves a massive problem and helps change the world. This is one of those times.” --Jane Lalonde

Dr. David Soane, Ph.D., is a visionary whose expertise in chemical engineering and plasma physics has allowed him to crack the code for CO2 utilization. He is driven to understand the universe's fundamental laws to create previously unimagined solutions to combat climate change.