There is too much CO2 in the air and that is detrimental in terms of global warming. Extracting CO2 from the air and storing it is one way of resolving this, but we can also extract CO2 from the air and use it to produce renewable fuels or high-quality chemicals or store it in, for example, building materials. That is something that is already possible, explains Metin Bulut of VITO. 

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We already have CO2-based products that fit perfectly into the existing market. Products where the consumer contributes to the fight against climate change simply by using them.

Converting CO2 into methanol would be a good example, because methanol has a very large target market and is often produced from natural gas. After all, methanol can be used as fuel in, for example, shipping and long-distance transport, instead of the now highly polluting fuel oil. We aim to increase the use of this further in the future. But CO2 can also be used for the production of chemicals and, for example, polyurethane mattresses. There are already companies that use CO2 for foam mattresses.

Another way of converting CO2 is to use it as a binding agent when making tiles, roof tiles, clinker bricks, facing bricks, coping stones and building blocks. Together with Orbix, VITO has developed a technology to produce building materials based on steel slag powder and CO2. With this technique, we no longer need to use cement – after all, cement is a significant source of CO2. By using the new technology, we obtain building materials that absorb CO2 instead of emitting it during the production process.

We can capture CO2 that comes from a company's chimney, but we can also simply extract it from the air. An initial pilot project has been launched at the VITO site of the deep geothermal power plant in Mol in order to extract CO2 from the air of existing fans. That CO2 is then stored in tanks and subsequently incorporated into the production process.

Economically feasible

Are all of these procedures also economically feasible? The reality is that CCU is economically driven. Important prerequisites are therefore that there is also the potential to make economically valuable use of it and that the ecological footprint of these new procedures is much better than that of the old ones. We can reduce costs by avoiding investment costs and reducing energy costs. That is why we try to use residual energy in our model and to work with existing fans.  It is VITO's task to also look for CCU technologies that can help achieve an economically attractive model.