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Issue 07/2022 Special Edition

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Highlights: Advanced Recycling Carbon Capture & Utilisation

Report Carbon dioxide

Report Carbon dioxide utilization – an opportunity for plastics Carbon dioxide utilization (CO 2 U) technologies are a sub-set of carbon capture utilization and storage (CCUS) technologies and refer to the productive use of anthropogenic CO 2 to make value-added products such as building materials, synthetic fuels, chemicals, and plastics. CCUS have been deployed around the world at large-scale and are seen as a crucial tool to decarbonize the world’s economy. As well as storing CO 2 in the subsurface, there has been increasing interest in its utilization. CO 2 U can promote not only a more circular economy but also, in some cases, result in products with enhanced properties or processes with lower feedstock costs. The CO 2 U industry has gained momentum as a solution to achieve the world’s ambitious climate goals. Many precommercial projects are currently operating or under construction, mostly concentrated in Europe and North America, with more in the pipeline supported by public and private investments. Although still in its infancy, the market pull is coming from the users – businesses and individuals are reportedly creating demand for low-carbon products. The options are diverse Despite its potential to create a market for waste CO 2 , not all CO 2 U technologies are created equal. These systems face a range of economic, technical, and regulatory challenges which need to be carefully considered so that the technologies that actually provide climate benefits – and are economically viable – can be prioritized and pursued. For instance, for many CO 2 U routes, the CO 2 sequestration is only temporary with the CO 2 utilized being released to the atmosphere once the product is consumed (e.g. CO 2 -derived fuels or proteins), Emerging applications of CO 2 utilization: inputs, manufacturing pathways, and products made from CO 2 . Source: IDTechEx. whilst for others, the CO 2 can be stored permanently (e.g. CO 2 -derived building materials). On the economic side, many CO 2 U pathways can be considerably more expensive than their fossil-based counterparts due to high energy requirements, low yields, or the need for other expensive feedstock (e.g. green hydrogen, catalysts). The highest potential areas Successful deployment for CO 2 -based polymers saw considerable growth in recent years, especially in Europe and Asia, with more than 250.000 tonnes of CO 2 already used in polymer manufacturing annually worldwide (based on currently operating plants). This sector is expected to continue to expand, even though its climate mitigation potential is limited, mainly due to its intrinsic low CO 2 utilization ratio (volume of CO 2 per volume of CO 2 -derived product). Construction materials, fuels, and commodity chemicals (e.g. methanol, ethanol, olefins) offer vast potential for CO 2 utilization, but this will not be realized without the development of an extensive CO 2 network linking capture sites to usage sites, widespread deployment of clean energy, or regulatory support (e.g. sustainable fuel mandates). CO 2 -derived construction products in particular – such as concrete and aggregates – are set to gain considerable market share due to their helpful thermodynamics and ability to sequester CO 2 permanently. How to make polymers from CO 2 ? There are at least three major pathways to convert CO 2 into polymers: electrochemistry, biological conversion, and thermocatalysis. The latter is the most mature CO 2 -utilization technology, where CO 2 can either be utilized directly to yield CO 2 -based polymers, most notably biodegradable linearchain polycarbonates (LPCs), or indirectly, through the production of chemical precursors (building blocks such as methanol, ethanol, acrylate derivatives, or mono-ethylene glycol [MEG]) for polymerization reactions. LPCs made from CO 2 include polypropylene carbonate (PPC), polyethylene carbonate (PEC), and polyurethanes (PUR), PUR being a major market for CO 2 -based polymers, with applications in electronics, mulch films, foams, and in the biomedical and healthcare sectors. CO 2 can comprise up to 50 % (in weight) of a polyol, one of the main components in PUR. CO 2 -derived polyols (alcohols with two or more reactive hydroxyl groups per molecule) are made by combining CO 2 with cyclic ethers (oxygen-containing, ring-like molecules called epoxides). The polyol is then combined with an isocyanate component to make PUR. Companies such as Econic (Amsterdam, the Netherlands), Covestro (Leverkusen, Germany, see p. 10), and Aramco Performance Materials (Dhahran, Saudi Arabia) (with intellectual property acquired from Novomer – Rochester, NY, USA) have developed novel catalysts to facilitate CO 2 -based polyol manufacturing. Fossil inputs are still necessary 54 bioplastics MAGAZINE [04/22] Vol. 17

Report Pathways to polymers from CO 2 . through this thermochemical pathway, but manufacturers can replace part of it with waste CO 2 , potentially saving on raw material costs. In the realm of emerging technologies, chemical precursors for CO 2 -based polymers can be obtained through electrochemistry or microbial synthesis. Although electrochemical conversion of CO 2 into chemicals is at an earlier stage of development, biological pathways are more mature, having reached the early-commercialization stage. Recent advances in genetic engineering and process optimization have led to the use of chemoautotrophic microorganisms in synthetic biological routes to convert CO 2 into chemicals, fuels, and even proteins. Unlike thermochemical synthesis, these biological pathways generally use conditions approaching ambient temperature and pressure, with the potential to be less energy-intensive and costly at scale. Notably, the California-based start-up Newlight (Huntington Beach, USA) is bringing into market a direct biological route to polymers, where its microbe turns captured CO 2 , air, and methane into polyhydroxybutyrate (PHB), an enzymatically degradable polymer. Currently, the scale of CO 2 -based polymer manufacturing is still minor compared to the incumbent petrochemical industry, but there are already successful commercial examples. One of the largest volumes available is aromatic polycarbonates (PC) made from CO 2 , being developed by Asahi Kasei (Tokyo, Japan) in Taiwan since 2012. More recently, the US-based company LanzaTech (Skokie, IL) has successfully established partnerships with major brands such as Unilever (London, UK), L’Oréal (Clichy, France), On (Zurich, Switzerland), Danone (Paris, France), Zara (Arteixo, Spain, see. p. 41) and Lulumelon (Vancouver, Canada) to use microbes to convert captured carbon emissions from industrial processes into polymer precursors – ethanol and MEG – for manufacturing of packaging items, shoes, and textiles. The niche areas The solid carbon (e.g. carbon nanotubes, carbon fibre, diamonds) and protein sectors will remain niche applications of CO 2 utilization, despite their high market value, due to, respectively, the small size of the market (in volumes) and fierce competition from incumbents. Waste CO 2 utilization in algae cultivation is still in the early stages, and many hurdles need to be addressed before commodity-scale applications become a reality. Questions remain Although the idea of reusing waste greenhouse gases as raw material seems like a win-win proposition, many viability questions arise for each CO 2 utilization pathway. Will it truly lead to emission reductions? What are the financial and practical barriers to its commercialization? Can it scale to address climate change meaningfully? These are some of the tough questions IDTechEx addressed in the latest report Carbon Dioxide (CO 2 ) Utilization 2022–2042: Technologies, Market Forecasts, and Players. The report provides a comprehensive outlook of the global CO 2 utilization industry, with an in-depth analysis of the technological, economic, and environmental aspects that are set to shape this emerging market over the next twenty years. IDTechEx considers CO 2 use cases in enhanced oil recovery, building materials, liquid and gaseous fuels, polymers, chemicals, and biological yield-boosting (crop greenhouses, algae, and fermentation), exploring the technology innovations and opportunities within each area. The report also includes a twenty-year granular forecast for the deployment of eleven CO 2 U product categories, alongside 20+ interview-based company profiles. The bottom line Not all CO 2 -utilization pathways are equally beneficial to climate goals and not all will be economically scalable. Scarce resources that have alternative uses must be allocated where they are most likely to generate economic value and climate change mitigation. As the world’s thirst for plastics does not seem to fade, a circular carbon economy may help maintain people’s lifestyles by fostering a petrochemical industry that sees waste CO 2 as a viable feedstock. AT The complete report can be purchased at bioplastics MAGAZINE [04/22] Vol. 17 55

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