A new study published by the Renewable Carbon Initiative (RCI) has explored the potential for reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in the energy intensive chemical and derived material industries by using carbon capture and utilisation (CCU).

By using CO2 captured from industrial processes the chemical production sector can reduce its dependence on fossil fuels, lowering its environmental impact. 

This captured CO2 can be used to synthesise methanol, a chemical that can be used as a substitute for conventional hydrocarbons, potentially reducing emissions by 67 to 77% compared to emissions from releasing embedded carbon of fossils fuels, when using a photovoltaic-based energy supply. 

By scaling up renewable energy production, the study revealed that the reduction could increase to levels between 96 and 100%. 

To enable CCU-based methanol to meet the huge demand for carbon embedded in chemicals and derived materials, which could rise to 1,000 million tonnes of carbon (Mt C) by 2050, it’s estimated that the demand for renewable energy could increase by 29.1 PW/h (Petawatt per hour) per year. 

In the case of a fully decarbonised energy supply, it could be possible to save 3.7 gigatonnes (Gt) of CO2 per year, a considerable percentage of today’s global emissions of 55.6 Gt CO2 equivalent per year. 

According to the study, CCU-based carbon will be an important pillar of a future built on renewable carbon, complementing carbon from recycling and from biomass.

The full study is available to view here.