CO2 Conversion & Utilization Pathways: Techno-economic Insights – PreScouter

Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse fuel often known as one of many foremost contributors to local weather change, but it surely will also be a uncooked materials for a number of industrial processes. Currently, urea manufacturing and enhanced oil restoration (EOR) are the primary makes use of for carbon dioxide. However, new pathways and applied sciences are being proposed and are in numerous phases of improvement. In this text, we current totally different CO2 conversion and utilization pathways, examples of tasks and corporations, and techno-economic insights together with the technical readiness stage (TRL) and prices concerned with every pathway.

Enhanced Oil Restoration (TRL 9):

While not a CO2 conversion pathway, this know-how makes use of the fuel to increase the lifetime of oil extraction wells by injecting CO2, making the most of its miscibility with crude oil, and extracting extra from an lively properly. The high-pressure CO2 displaces the oil that’s trapped within the pores of wells, bringing it to the floor. This pathway already has a excessive TRL given its industrial operation because the Nineteen Seventies. As of 2020, 21 industrial EOR amenities and tasks had been reported to be operational by the Global CCS Institute, together with 3 in development part and 5 below improvement.

The seize crops can promote the CO2 and generate sufficient income to offset the seize and transportation prices, as is the case with pure fuel processing crops that present CO2 to the Terrell and Great Plains amenities and the Enid Fertilizer Plant within the United States. The sectors of corporations concerned in supplying CO2 to operational EOR websites additionally embody energy technology, ethanol, methanol, chemical, and hydrogen manufacturing, in addition to iron and metal, principally within the United States but in addition in Brazil, Canada, China, Hungary, Saudi Arabia, and United Arab Emirates. New tasks in Australia, Canada, China, and the United States are underway.

In phrases of the EOR website operation, since CO<sub2 is a uncooked materials with an related price, operators attempt to optimize manufacturing to attenuate the use and storage of CO2. While the worth is often not disclosed by operators, 40 $/t is the worth reported in literature. However, the worth an operator is prepared to pay for CO2 additionally relies on the worth of oil, which lately skilled nice modifications as a result of political occasions in Eastern Europe and the continued pandemic. In the sector, an appropriate worth for 1 million ft3 of CO2 is round 2% of the worth of 1 barrel of West Texas Intermediate oil.

Thermochemical CO2 Conversion (TRL 5–9):

This pathway makes use of catalysts and a mixture of warmth and stress to transform CO2 into helpful merchandise. The most mature pathway for CO2 conversion, some processes are absolutely industrial, however many new applied sciences are additionally being developed each day. Challenges on this pathway embody the reversibility and thermodynamic limitations of reactions. Processes corresponding to Fischer-Tropsch are developed in large-scale crops to maximise the economies of scale, whereas processes corresponding to catalytic hydrogenation for methanol manufacturing are developed to be decentralized to make the most of level sources of CO2. The following sections present examples of thermochemical CO2 conversion.

Reverse Water Fuel Shift For Syngas Manufacturing Adopted By Fischer-Tropsch (TRL 5–9):

Reverse water fuel shift can convert carbon dioxide and hydrogen into carbon monoxide and water. It could also be adopted by different processes corresponding to Fischer-Tropsch to supply liquid artificial fuels corresponding to e-diesel, e-gasoline, and e-kerosene. This is a typical instance that’s properly established, however the reverse water fuel shift know-how nonetheless needs to be scaled. Therefore, the TRL attributed to this know-how is within the vary of 5–9.

The desk under presents techno-economic outcomes and some key assumptions.

Production price Fuel Year of research CO2 price Electricity price Lifetime (years) Fossil gasoline price
0.05 $/MJ Diesel 2022 53.1 $/t + tax credit score 20.2 $/t 0.05 $/kWh 10 0.02–0.03 $/MJ
5.4–5.9 $/gal (MSP, 8% fee of return) Diesel 2021 17.3 $/t 0.07 $/kWh 40 3.1 $/gal
2.4 $/L Jet gasoline 2016 109 $/t 0.06 $/kWh 25 0.9 $/L
10.0 $/gal Gasoline 2020 0.07 $/kWh 1.7 $/gal

Production price Fuel Year of research CO2 price Electricity price Lifetime (years) Fossil gasoline price
6.8 $/gal Diesel 2022 53.1 $/t + tax credit score 20.2 $/t 0.05 $/kWh 10 2.7–4.1 $/gal
5.4-5.9 $/gal (MSP, 8% fee of return) Diesel 2021 17.3 $/t 0.07 $/kWh 40 3.1 $/gal
9 .1 $/gal Jet gasoline 2016 109 $/t 0.06 $/kWh 25 3.4 $/gal
10.0 $/gal Gasoline 2020 0.07 $/kWh 1.7 $/gal

Fuels from CO2 are significantly dearer than their fossil counterparts. The prices are dominated by hydrogen manufacturing, reaching as much as 60% of complete prices when it’s produced by water electrolysis. It is value mentioning that water electrolysis is believed to grow to be cheaper within the close to future as a result of decrease capital expenditures and decrease renewable electrical energy prices, and regulatory (e.g., carbon tax) or political (e.g., conflict that will enhance the worth of oil) occasions could change the financial feasibility of this pathway.

There are a number of tasks aiming to extend the dimensions of manufacturing by way of this pathway, particularly in Europe. Solarbelt owns and operates a plant within the Werlte, Emsland, area of Germany that’s funded by atmosfair, a German nonprofit that gives carbon offsets within the aviation trade. The plant has a capability of 350 tonnes per 12 months of manufacturing and is anticipated to be absolutely operational within the first quarter of 2022. 

The Norsk e-Fuel consortium lately introduced the development of their first manufacturing plant in Mosjøen, Norway. The deliberate capability on the finish of 2024 might be 12.5 million liters of aviation gasoline per 12 months, and in 2026, the total capability might be reached, at 25 million liters per 12 months.  

The Kopernikus power-to-X venture, which is sponsored by the German federal ministry of analysis and training, is in its second part. It is organized in 3 analysis clusters with the purpose of scaling up processes to transform CO2. The cluster targeted on fuels (FC-B2, applied sciences for the manufacturing of hydrocarbons and long-chain alcohols) at the moment produces 10 liters of gasoline per day, aiming to extend 10 to 1000 occasions.

 Sabatier Course Of For Methane Manufacturing (TRL 8–9):

In this course of, also called “power-to-gas,” CO2 and H2 react to supply methane. The extremely exothermic response takes place at temperatures within the vary of 200–550 °C, relying on the catalyst, which may be based mostly on nickel and ruthenium, for instance. Very excessive conversion charges are attainable, reducing the necessity for product purification. The relative TRL is round 8–9, with profitable producing crops and new system design tasks.

The desk under presents techno-economic outcomes and some key assumptions.

Production price Year of research CO2 price Electricity price Lifetime (years) Fossil gasoline price
0.20 $/kWh 2020 280 $/t 0.05 $/kWh 40 0.02–0.05 $/kWh
0.19 $/kWh 2016 0.02–0.05 $/kWh
0.11–0.16 $/kWh 2021 53.1 $/t + 20.1 $/t tax credit score 0.05-0.07 $/kWh 10 0.04 $/kWh

Methane from CO2 may be 3 to five occasions dearer than its fossil counterpart, but it surely might attain 0.08 $/kWh if utilizing surplus renewable electrical energy (for free of charge). This is as a result of electrical energy and water electrolysis are the primary drivers of prices. The electrical energy price is roughly 64% of the entire manufacturing price of methane from CO2, and water electrolysis is roughly 77% of the entire capital expenditure of the system. Currently, the capital price for water electrolysis techniques is estimated within the vary of 500–1000 $/kW, but it surely might fall to under 200 $/kW by 2050. Therefore, the extra economically attention-grabbing water electrolysis for H2 manufacturing turns into, the extra attention-grabbing methane manufacturing from CO2 is. 

Germany has many tasks each deliberate and operational. The largest industrial plant for methane manufacturing is owned by Audi, in Werlte. Operating since 2013, the manufacturing capability is roughly 5 t/day from CO2 and hydrogen from water electrolysis. 

The Jupiter 1000 venture, operated by GRTgaz and companions in France, began in 2018 and is deliberate for manufacturing in 2023 (finish of testing part). CO2 might be captured from industrial websites, and hydrogen from 100% renewable vitality might be fed to the methanation unit, which can produce 25 m3/h. 

Research tasks are additionally being deployed with the purpose of designing and optimizing the manufacturing with new applied sciences. The Helmeth venture, for instance, goals at integrating high-temperature water electrolysis with methanation to extend total effectivity.

Methanol Manufacturing (TRL 6–7):

This exothermic course of converts CO2 and H2 into methanol, which is an alternative choice to fossil fuels and is a vital constructing block of the chemical trade. The TRL is reported to be between 6–7, with a couple of industrial manufacturing crops by Carbon Recycling International and Mitsui Chemicals.

The desk under presents techno-economic outcomes and some key assumptions.

Production price Year of research CO2 price Electricity price Lifetime (years) Fossil gasoline price
1.36–2.11 $/kg 2018 23–138 $/t 0.06-0.09 $/kWh 25 0.27 $/kg
0.46–0.64 $/kg 2016 16–132 $/t 0.03–0.04 $/kWh 40 0.49 $/kg

Methanol from CO2 is at the moment not aggressive, as with different CO2-based merchandise. However, in 2050, methanol could also be aggressive as a result of modifications in electrical energy costs and the anticipated capital expenditures, which reduces the price of methanol manufacturing probably to 0.50 $/kg, and in addition as a result of a possible enhance within the price of fossil methanol, which might attain round 0.68 $/kg.

Electricity prices (primarily for H2 manufacturing) symbolize roughly 40% of the entire prices, whereas capital expenditures symbolize roughly 30% of complete prices. Therefore, based on the literature, low-cost H2 manufacturing is critical and carbon pricing might also affect the feasibility of methanol manufacturing from CO2

However, Carbon Recycling International (CRI) and Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems imagine methanol may be worthwhile within the present context as a result of, versus methane, fossil methanol will not be low-cost and is near the price of methanol from CO2. Furthermore, the businesses remark that the manufacturing crops can be strategically positioned close to CO2 sources and industrial items that may be built-in with the methanol producing plant to reuse waste warmth and different essential utilities.

CRI has operated an illustration plant in Iceland since 2012 with a capability of 4,000 t/12 months and final 12 months commissioned a full-scale plant in China with a methanol manufacturing capability of 110,000 t/12 months. Another consortium led by Liquid Wind is within the preliminary part of the development of their first methanol plant, with a deliberate capability of fifty,000 t/12 months in 2024. By 2030, ten crops in Sweden are deliberate, with later worldwide enlargement.

Urea (TRL 9):

Urea is principally used as a fertilizer and should already be commercially produced from CO2. The course of is operated at excessive temperature (~200 °C) and stress (150 bar). The TRL is already 9, and the market is prone to enhance as a result of elevated want for meals. As of 2018, the worldwide manufacturing was over 190 million t/12 months, and the worth was ~250 $/t.

CO2 Mineralization (TRL 4–8 For Concrete Substances, TRL 7–8 For Concrete Curing):

CO2 mineralization processes depend upon the response between metallic cations (e.g., Mg, Ca, Fe) with CO2 to type strong and steady carbonate minerals. This pathway may be divided into two bigger teams: in situ and ex situ mineralization. The in situ course of is said to geologic storage the place the injected CO2 reacts with the alkaline minerals which are current within the injection website. Ex situ mineralization is carried out in an industrial plant, and there are totally different potential sources of alkalinity for the cations. Mineral rocks corresponding to olivine and serpentine could also be used, but in addition industrial wastes corresponding to fly ash, cement kiln mud, and metal slag.

This ex situ course of can be utilized to supply various aggregates utilized in concrete, as an alternative to half of the present supplies. As an exothermic course of, it doesn’t want giant inputs of vitality being favorable at low temperatures. Costs for mineral rocks as alkalinity sources had been reported within the literature starting from 150 to 400 $/t of CO2 captured, and 105 $/t CO2 with metal slags. This distinction could also be associated to the additional processing step wanted to extract the metallic cations from the mineral rocks. 

The US-based firm Skyonic captures and mineralizes the CO2 from a cement plant, with prices of 25–45 $/t of CO2 captured and NaOH as an alkali solvent to supply hydrochloric acid, baking soda, and bleach.

In phrases of merchandise that can be utilized as concrete substances, corporations corresponding to Blue Planet, Carbon Free, and Carbon8 are main industrial improvement. In a latest research, it was reported that CO2 mineralization to supply supplementary cementitious supplies (SCM) could also be economically possible, resulting in earnings of 128–140 $/t of SCM from CO2 mineralization. The reported TRL of this pathway is 4–8.

Another sort of CO2 mineralization is concrete curing, mixing CO2 with contemporary concrete to extend its energy with the precipitation of calcium carbonate within the combine. This is the method adopted by the Canadian firm Carbon Cure for masonry and ready-mixed concrete. The reported TRL is 7–8.

Electrochemical CO2 Conversion (TRL 4–8 For C1 Merchandise, TRL 1–3 For C2+ Merchandise):

In this pathway, electrical energy is utilized to induce a non-spontaneous response of CO2 discount. Similar to water electrolysis, which has grow to be very fashionable for inexperienced hydrogen manufacturing (when the electrical energy is from a renewable supply).

Electrolysis could also be carried out at high and low temperatures, with the low temperature being extra versatile however much less vitality environment friendly. High-temperature electrolysis is carried out in gadgets referred to as “solid oxide electrolyzer cells” and is used to cut back CO2 into C1 merchandise corresponding to pure carbon monoxide (technologically mature) or its combination with hydrogen (syngas). Low-temperature discount of CO2 is much less mature than carbon dioxide manufacturing by way of high-temperature electrolysis however can synthesize C2+ merchandise corresponding to ethanol, ethylene, and propylene. Higher carbonated merchandise have financial challenges, as a result of selectivity points.  

Electrochemical processes are modular, or immediately proportional to the lively space of the electrolyzers, and comparatively simple to scale up. However, this might be an obstacle to economies of scale. The following sections present examples of electrochemical CO2 conversion.

High-temperature CO2 Electrolysis For Carbon Monoxide Manufacturing (TRL 8):

In this course of, CO2 is break up into CO and O2. It is carried out in gaseous part with excessive temperatures (sometimes 600–800 °C) and may be operated in a thermoneutral mode, the place the warmth generated by the Joule impact is sufficient to drive the response and no extra warmth is critical. In addition, the supplies employed in these gadgets are usually not notably costly or uncommon as with the low-temperature gadgets. The reported TRL for carbon monoxide manufacturing is 8.

Carbon monoxide manufacturing by way of electrochemical CO2 discount is at industrial scale, with corporations corresponding to Sunfire (syngas by way of co-electrolysis) and Haldor Topsoe (dry CO2 electrolysis) out there. Unlike most electrochemical CO2 discount processes, carbon monoxide manufacturing is at the moment economically aggressive, with an estimated price of 0.55 $/kg, under the 0.7 $/kg for CO available on the market.

Low-temperature Electrolysis:

In low-temperature electrolysis, two foremost designs can be found — aqueous electrolyte and membrane electrode meeting — and a number of other carbonated substances may be produced, together with alcohols, alkanes, and alkenes, for instance. The problem is to attain a possible manufacturing course of, as a result of low selectivity and excessive electrical energy demand. Therefore, C1 (e.g., methane, formic acid) and C2 (e.g., ethylene) merchandise are typically extra promising than increased carbonated merchandise.

The most researched merchandise are formic acid, ethanol, and ethylene. Of these, ethanol continues to be removed from being commercially possible, with selectivity within the vary of 60%-70% as optimistic or aspirational, and with a price of ~55 $/GGE within the present context, whereas industrial ethanol is ~2.10–2.55 $/GGE. A two-step conversion was discovered to be barely extra environment friendly, the place the CO2 is first transformed to CO, corresponding to within the excessive temperature CO2 electrolysis as talked about beforehand, and the CO is then additional decreased to ethanol. Still, this association resulted in ~50 $/GGe.

Formic acid manufacturing is extra prone to be aggressive, however the present TRL continues to be within the vary of three–5. A latest venture on the University of Delaware funded by the US Department of Energy goals to develop the system for a 5-liter reactor. In phrases of the know-how, selectivity of ~94%–100% was reported. This substance could also be used as hydrogen storage and as a commodity chemical. A earlier techno-economic evaluation estimated the manufacturing price of electrochemical formic acid to be roughly 1.16 $/kg however with the ability to obtain 0.46 $/kg with optimum efficiency. Conventional formic acid is commercialized at 0.4–0.6 $/kg. In one other research, US-based Dioxide Materials reported that the electrical energy price is crucial and values under 0.02 $/kWh are wanted to permit manufacturing prices ~0.2 $/kg.

Ethylene will also be produced immediately from electrochemical CO2 discount, however the TRL continues to be low (2–3). Electricity price and selectivity are crucial parameters for the manufacturing price, which values can range within the literature from 0.65 to 4.92 $/kg, whereas fossil-based ethylene prices 0.58 $/kg. The eEthylen venture is led by Siemens with a consortium of skilled companions corresponding to Evonik and is funded by the German authorities. The targets embody the event of a steady catalyst but in addition understanding the response mechanism, highlighting the low TRL.

Bioelectrochemical Processes (TRL 1–3 For One-step, TRL 4–7 For Two-step):

CO2 may be transformed with the help of microorganisms immediately in a single step or with a separate manufacturing of H2 in a two-step course of. The one-step course of is much less developed, whereas the two-step course of is close to commercialization for methane.

In step one, hydrogen is produced, then in a second step, hydrogen and CO2 are fed to a bioreactor containing anaerobic methanogenic species for methane manufacturing. This course of is in early industrial deployment, with MicrobEnergy offering this organic power-to-gas methane to the German grid since 2015 and Electrochaea collaborating in analysis and demonstration tasks in Denmark, Switzerland, and the United States. The TRL is reported to be within the vary of 4–7. Currently, organic methanation is dearer than thermochemical methanation, however it’s believed that within the close to future each prices ought to grow to be comparable. Furthermore, methane, acetate and isopropanol will also be produced, though methane appears to be the dominating product.

Regarding the one-step course of, it’s much like electrochemical conversion, with the distinction that the cathode is inoculated with microorganisms. As a organic course of, the benefits are the comparatively delicate operation circumstances, excessive selectivity (as much as 99%), and catalysts that don’t should be regenerated. In this pathway, acetate is essentially the most studied product, however methane, ethanol, and isopropanol are additionally attainable. This one-step course of continues to be in R&D, with a reported TRL of 1–3.

Novel CO2 Conversion Approaches – Photocatalysis And Plasma (TRL 1–3):

New applied sciences for CO2 conversion corresponding to photocatalysis and utilizing plasma are being researched. They are nonetheless in R&D, with TRL ranges of 1–3.

Photocatalytic conversion is pushed by photo voltaic vitality. In this pathway, CO2 and water are fed to a reactor that additionally comprises a photocatalyst that may be heterogeneous (extra widespread) or homogeneous. The daylight induces modifications within the digital state of the photocatalyst orbitals, which might then work together with the molecular orbitals of CO2 and water, resulting in a discount response. Photocatalysts are semiconductor supplies that may be impregnated with metallic co-catalysts corresponding to platinum or palladium. It can be attainable to incorporate a sensitizing agent. In an instance from a Solar2Fuel venture in Germany, along with the ferric oxide hematite catalyst, the suspension included dye-sensitized TiO2 nanoparticles (a semiconductor) with absorbed dye (perylenes group), and a mediator for electron transport (sodium iodide).

The plasma pathway is one other novel method that has attention-grabbing properties and benefits. It creates a weak ionized plasma (additionally referred to as “gas discharges”) by inputting electrical energy. This plasma is an ionized fuel that comprises molecules, excited atoms, radicals, ions, and electrons, being a really reactive medium. The CO2 conversion may be activated by electrons which are heated by the electrical subject, which is performed in delicate circumstances of temperature and stress. Besides the delicate circumstances for operation, different benefits embody the truth that this course of is well switched on/off by controlling the electrical energy enter (no start-up time points), the response happens in your entire quantity of the reactor versus the electrochemical conversion that wants floor space, and plasma conversion doesn’t require costly supplies. However, the bodily phenomenon may be very advanced and nonetheless requires extra analysis to be absolutely understood. 

Products that may be synthesized embody carbon monoxide, methanol, ethylene, ethanol, and another C3 merchandise. But, because of the R&D stage, the TRL is within the vary of 1–3.

Perspectives And Challenges:

As we noticed above, CO2 may be utilized by way of a number of applied sciences at various TRLs. Mature choices corresponding to EOR and thermochemical urea manufacturing are economically possible and a actuality out there, whereas applied sciences corresponding to mineralization and carbon monoxide manufacturing from electrolysis are within the early phases of commercialization however are already economically possible, too. That is a mirrored image of the elevated consideration that CO2 utilization has gained recently, with two mineralization start-ups profitable the distinguished Carbon XPrize competitors

For the longer term, applied sciences at decrease TRLs might also ship environment friendly options, however rather more funding for scale-up, R&D, and assessments of carbon footprint and vitality stability are nonetheless wanted. In widespread to virtually all of the CO2 conversion applied sciences is the necessity for low-carbon vitality (a number of it!) to energy this potential answer for carbon circularity. But that appears to be the close to future, so it might be value keeping track of CO2 conversion and utilization.

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