CO2 Utilization Image Facelift for Climate Killer

| Editor: Doris Popp

As CO2 makes the transition from climate killer to chemical feedstock, the change in the nature of the image projected by the greenhouse gas could hardly be more striking.

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Valuable feedstock instead of waste - the chemical industry is working with the power industry to develop new utilization options.
Valuable feedstock instead of waste - the chemical industry is working with the power industry to develop new utilization options.
(Picture: Fotolia; [M]-Sahlmüller)

Following initial success by companies such as Bayer, BASF, Mitsui Chemicals and others in utilizing the relatively non-reactive gas as a feedstock for chemical synthesis, momentum is building in the industry to continue development of the technology. Utilization could well prove to be a promising alternative alongside of the storage option which remains controversial.

A new formulation for the plastic ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) was developed during a project carried out by BASF, Siemens and the University of Applied Sciences in Munich. The material is suitable for common household appliances (e.g. vacuum cleaner covers), and it is just one example that highlights the potential of the greenhouse gas. The project is part of a program sponsored by the German Ministry of Education and Research to exploit CO2 as a polymer building block.

The project in turn comes under the umbrella of a subsidy program for the development of chemical processes and CO2 utilization to promote sustainability and climate protection technologies. The Ministry will be investing € 100,000 between 2009 and 2015 in the 28 projects which have been approved. The goal is to reduce CO2 emissions by up to 40% by 2020 and help get twice the return from the input energy. Alliances between the chemical and power generation industries could play a significant role. Both generate emissions but can also contribute to finding a solution to the problem. This has become evident on projects that are aimed at using hydrogen produced by hydrolysis to activate CO2.

The hydrogen is obtained from renewable sources, helping improve the energy balance of CO2 utilization. In April, the University of Applied Sciences in Munich started a particularly ambitious undertaking. iC4, which stands for Carbon Capture and Cycling, brings together the University, the Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology (IGB) and the chemical producers Wacker and Süd-Chemie (Clariant) along with Siemens, Linde, EON and MAN. The researchers intend to scrub CO2 from flue gas.

Using hydrogen produced from renewable sources, they will then convert the CO2 to syngas in a methanation reaction. The syngas can be stored underground and retrieved at times when other energy supplies are scare. One of the objectives of the project is to solve the major problem associated with solar and wind power, namely the inability to store electricity which can only be converted into other forms of energy.