Recycling Carbon Dioxide
Now consider an approach that converts carbon dioxide into a fuel. The fuel would eventually release carbon dioxide to the air, but the overall carbon footprint is lowered because the fuel can potentially replace a petroleum-based fuel. I recently reported on a visit to a company in Iceland — Carbon Recycling International — that utilizes this approach. The company takes carbon dioxide emissions from geothermal power plants and converts that into methanol that is sold into the fuel market.
A better approach would be to recycle the carbon dioxide into a plastic or building material that could be sequestered for a longer period. Some companies are utilizing carbon dioxide in the production of cement, which could bind the carbon for decades. This is the approach taken by UCLA Professor Gaurav Sant, who helped pioneer a 3-D printed building material made from captured carbon dioxide from smokestacks called “CO2NCRETE.”
Alternatively, carbon dioxide can be used in greenhouses to make plants grow faster, and if those plants (e.g., wood, bamboo, straw, etc.) are using in construction materials, the carbon can be bound for an extended period.
Rising carbon dioxide emissions represent a problem so pressing, the IPCC has concluded that the world must immediately mobilize to avoid catastrophic climate impacts if the global climate warms by more than 1.5 degrees Celsius. A multi-pronged approach is needed, and there is no time to waste. CCUS represents an important, but underutilized tool that warrants more attention.