Research on CCU capabilities at Chemelot


Carbon Capture and Utilisation (CCU)—the use of captured carbon dioxide (CO₂) as a raw material for new production processes—is one possible way of making chemistry more sustainable. To meet the climate objectives for 2030 and 2050, Brightsite’s program line 3 ‘Process innovation’ aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by capturing and storing or using CO₂. TNO researcher Juliana Monteiro has led a study on the potential of CCU for Chemelot within Brightsite.

Program line 3 ‘Process innovation’, is focusing on options to reduce CO2 emissions at Chemelot. We are looking at options to reduce emissions from the current processes and which new technologies can help with this”, explains Lianne van Oord, Program Manager at Brightsite. One of the options under investigation is whether CCU is a way of reducing scope 1 CO2 emissions in addition to, for example, storing CO2 (CCS — Carbon Capture and Storage). “Whereas CCS is about storing CO2, CCU focuses on reusing captured CO2 for new products. Because why store CO2 when you can use it? We know that recycling plastic to replace fossil fuels, will not be enough to replace natural gas and naphtha. Therefore we need to look for more options, so we asked Chemical Engineer Juliana Monteiro to find out what the possibilities and challenges for CCU are at Chemelot”, says Van Oord. The first exploratory steps quickly demonstrated that CCU is not a solution for scope 1 reduction, because only applications that store CO2 for at least 100 years count. In addition, a route is only considered green if the CO2 that is stored does not come from fossil fuel sources.

Lianne van Oord, Program Manager Brightsite:

“At Brightsite, we weigh up what, where and when appropriate action can be taken to tackle the challenge of climate change.”

Closing the carbon cycle

“In light of the efforts to achieve a climate-neutral chemical sector, a transition away from fossil feedstock is required. We need to find the feedtock that we currently extract from fossil fuels elsewhere. CO₂ is an interesting source alongside other options we have, such as (plastic) waste and biomass. In the best, most circular scenario, recycling is expected to meet 65% of the carbon requirements of the chemical industry in Europe. CO₂ can be used to close the carbon cycle. In this research “CO₂2 utilisation opportunities at Chemelot”, we focused purely and only on CO₂ as an alternative carbon source.

We need carbon so it has to come from somewhere. Biogenic sources will be limited and extracting CO₂ from the air is expensive. CCU may not be the obvious answer to climate change, but it can be a reliable carbon source in a highly “defossilised” future. However, converting CO₂ into usable components is not that easy. Reusing CO₂ requires a lot of chemistry and energy”, says Monteiro.

Juliana Monteiro, Chemical Engineer TNO:

“CCU may eventually play a role at Chemelot, but it is unlikely to be the most important route for recarbonisation because it is so energy-intensive.”

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