In recent years several techniques have been developed that convert CO2, emitted in industrial processes, into valuable applications. It includes the manufacturing of building materials, fuels and various chemical molecules. In order to get a better understanding of the applications of CO2 capture and utilisation, the Flemish Environment, Nature and Energy Department mapped its potential. The research was carried out by VITO and DNV.GL. With carbon capture and utilisation (CCU), the carbon cycle is closed and CO2 is no longer a waste stream.
To achieve the transition to a low carbon society, CO2 emissions have to be reduced drastically in all societal sectors. The Flemish government sees CCU as a promising option for emission reductions in the energy-intensive industry, which is closely linked to the Flemish industrial profile and available expertise. The use of CO2 as a raw material for various products offers opportunities for innovation and added value to the climate and energy policy.
Interesting research and development activities in Flanders
In Flanders, six research centres are active in about 10 research fields. The processes studied are mainly situated in the laboratory stage and need at least 5 to 15 years to get to the commercialisation stage.
In addition, four Flemish companies (Avecom, Carbstone Innovation, Organic Waste Systems and Proviron) have developed specific proprietary technologies. Two companies (ArcelorMittal & Antwerp Port Authority) are planning to implement existing technologies.
Four technology cases
In the study a detailed analysis was performed of the following promising technologies:
- ethanol production from waste gases in the steel industry at ArcelorMittal
- methanol production with green electricity at the Port of Antwerp (power-to-methanol)
- algal biomass production as larval food at Proviron
- production of building materials from steel slag at Carbstone Innovation.
These cases are technologically mature and ready for demonstration in an operational environment. They represent a good range of technologies and moreover, the latter two are being developed in Flanders.
The production of construction materials and algae biomass are profitable under the assumptions made. In contrast, mainly the production of fuels such as ethanol and methanol has great potential for reducing CO2 emissions. It is, however, important that the processes use renewable energy.
The report formulated specific policy recommendations to encourage the application of CO2 in Flanders. These include the development of LCAs (Life Cycle Assessment) and CCU technologies, facilitating demonstration projects, supporting investments, promoting CCU products (fuels and materials) and CCU services and supporting cluster development. In addition, CCU can be supported through existing European instruments such as the European emissions trading system (ETS) and the Renewable Energy Directive. CO2 use can further be encouraged through various European innovation funds and a EU action plan for the circular economy.
Flemish Minister for Environment Joke Schauvliege: “I take these recommendations in the report seriously and will pursue a policy of supporting CCU technologies, like for other ambitious climate actions. Such innovations are of fundamental importance for Flanders in order to achieve our climate goals and to share our knowledge and expertise globally.
Brigitte Borgmans, Spokesperson Department Environment, Nature and Energy: Brigitte.firstname.lastname@example.org
Information on VITO contribution to LNE study: Heleen De Wever, Project Manager Biotechnology and CO2 conversion: email@example.com