Carbon Utilization – Key to the future of reducing Carbon Dioxide in the air and oceans
Elimination of Carbon Dioxide from the source
One method of reducing carbon dioxide, CO2, is to eliminate the source. According the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) a turn has occurred where the rise of global average surface temperatures will not be able to limited of 1.5 degrees Celsius by the end of the century even if all CO2 emissions were curtailed today. Clearly, more methods which remove the carbon dioxide residing in the atmosphere and oceans is needed. One idea which had been proposed to reduce Green House Gas emissions is carbon utilization.
The Carbon Sequestration Leadership Forum states carbon utilization technologies potentially could reduce CO2 emissions by at least 3.7 gigatons per year (Gt/y), equal to about 10 percent of the worlds current annual emissions.
Carbon Utilization uses carbon dioxide to produce high value chemicals. Currently these technologies to expensive and energy intensive. But technology, policy and a business climate based on carbon markets may change this.
There are four primary approaches: The first is mineralization where CO2 is converted to carbonate which can then be used in cement. The second approach involves chemical conversion where chemical means are used to convert carbon dioxide high energy molecules such as liquid fuels. The third approach is an electrical conversion which mimics photosynthesis. The last approach is biology based where synthesis of products using carbon dioxide are created by biological organisms such as algae or bacteria.
Regardless of the approach it is helpful to think of this technology as closing the carbon loop. Those familiar with recycling and the cradle-to-cradle concept can view carbon utilization as similar except instead plastic the material would be carbon. The additional impact would result in the ability to remove the accumulated carbon dioxide but to use the same carbon dioxide as a feedstock for things we are now using fossil fuels for.
In need of more ways to utilize CO2
Carbon utilization is one way to help reduce emissions and remove the CO2 generated from man-made processes. The technology does not need to be the only idea; more innovative solutions will be required. At least someone is working on solution to what may be our planet biggest threat to a sustainable future.