Holding its final conference in Brussels in June 2016, the EU-funded SCOT project has showcased its innovative work over the past 3 years on building Europe’s capacity for the development of innovative CO2 utilisation and recycling technologies.
With growing emphasis on the need to reduce carbon emissions and create a truly circular economy, carbon dioxide (CO2) utilisation offers Europe an opportunity to meet both of these overarching ambitions. CO2 utilisation is a broad term that covers a variety of innovative industrial processes, which use CO2 from point source emitters (and in the future from direct air capture) as a feedstock to transform CO2 into value added products. In essence, CO2 is treated as a resource, rather than as waste or an emission.
New opportunities from CO2 utilisation
SCOT’s (Smart CO2 Transformation) main objective has been to define a Strategic European Research and Innovation Agenda for Europe in the field of CO2 utilisation. It has done this by considering research and innovation needs on both chemical and biological transformation, covering three primary areas: chemical building blocks, pathways to the two million or so different molecules produced by the chemicals industry); synthetic fuels (aviation, for example); and mineralisation (making hard materials which could be used for building or as a basis for fertiliser pellets). It has also worked towards the development of a Joint Action Plan (JAP) for Europe that includes structural policy measures to favour the transition to low-carbon energy industry and the paradigm of ‘CO2-as-a-resource.’
The project consortium argues that CO2 utilisation will create new opportunities for economic growth, promote greater innovation and boost Europe’s competitiveness, as well support Europe’s decarbonisation and resource efficiency agendas. The project’s overall vision is that by 2030, CO2 utilisation technologies will allow for the manufacturing of a wide variety of products and industrial solutions. Thus, there is indeed a potentially huge market for products derived from reused CO2, but it was acknowledged during the event that it will probably always be cheaper to make a certain molecule from fossil fuels rather than synthetically.