One of the most hotly contested talking points in the global discussion around carbon dioxide (CO2) reduction has revolved around the potential usages of CO2. Innovations in areas such as carbon capture, utilisation, and storage (CCUS) has seen companies develop new ways of decarbonising hard-to-abate manufacturing sectors such as steel, cement, and transport, by focusing on the usage and/or storage of captured CO2.

Held on World Earth Day, gasworld’s CO2: Utilisation and Innovation webinar saw hosts Rob Cockerill – Global Managing Editor, and Thomas Dee – Broadcast Journalist, joined by a panel of industry experts for a discussion around CO2 Management’s transhipment hub, CO2 applications and sourcing, and CO2 commercialisation opportunities.

The first guest, Torsten Porwol – Managing Director at CO2 Management, spoke about the role that the company is taking in the world of CO2 management, while commenting on the status of its CO2 transhipment hub. 

Porwol said that the company focuses on solutions relating to the shipment of carbon dioxide (CO2), stating that most people are not aware of the size of the CO2 challenges that the world is currently facing, 

As one of the biggest CO2 emitters, he added that there is no infrastructure that exists to deal with the removal of such large amounts of CO2. 

“You really have to invest in the infrastructure to solve of these technical challenges,” he added. 

When asked about they Germany for the project, he said, “Ten years ago CCS (carbon capture and storage) was politically killed in Germany. Now people are facing climate challenges and people are aware of the fact that they have to do something on the CCS or CCUS front.” 

“Otherwise Germany will not be able to solve the big challenges to net zero because of the amount of CO2 they are producing.” 

“There’s always a lot of pressure to move forwards politically in order to manage to reach the common goals of the Paris Agreement, because it’s not happening overnight,” he added. 

The proximity of the Bremen transhipment hub to German industry and the numerous European offshore CO2 storage facilities that are currently in development make Bremen an ideal location for a CO2 handling facility. 

Liquid gas will be collected from various industrial sites for further use, or it will be loaded onto ships and exported to long-term storage.   

Next was experienced industrial and specialty gas professional, Stephen B. Harrison of sbh4 Consulting, who discussed all things CO2 utilisation and innovation. 

Can synthetic efuels and CO2 utilisation be part of the solution?  

“The production of a fuel can be carbon neutral or carbon negative, also it’s important to consider its use,” he began. 

“For example, ammonia and hydrogen have no CO2 emissions when used. Synthetic e-fuels or synthetic methanol does emit CO2.” 

To declare something as fully carbon negative, he explained that tier one, two, and three emissions must be considered over the full life cycle. 

CO2 equivalents of methane emissions must be also be considered, for example biogas or renewable liquefied natural gas (LNG) is low carbon, but if there are methane leaks, there is potential for a very negative climate impact. 

“Lastly, we must understand the principles of carbon accounting and lifecycle analysis before we begin to attach labels such as carbon neutral or climate neutral.” 

Main technology pathways to achieve climate neutral fuel 

Discussing the various pathways that have the potential to be carbon negative or GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions negative, Harrison stated that the production of biogas or renewable CNG or renewable LNG from biomethane.

Citing the EU Renewable Energy Directive (RED), he stated that there is clear guidance on the climate impact of biomethane production from various digester technologies and feedstocks for heat and power or mobility applications. 

Another pathway could be the gasification of biomass to make syn gas before converting it to gasoline. CO2 from the biomass gasification process can be captured and permanently stored, referred to as BECCS. 

Support of biofuels through captured CO2 and synthetic fuels 

Through electrolysis, it’s possible to achieve the production of synthetic liquid hydrocarbons. Hydrogen and CO2 can be converted to methanol using a hydrogenation process over copper and zinc oxide catalysts. 

Electrolysis requires ‘significant’ amounts of electrical power so for the process to be carbon neutral, the energy must be provided through renewable energy such as solar or wind. 

Stating that there will be ongoing debate about how climate friendly large-scale biomass energy really is, Harrison gave an example of the Drax plant in the UK which is the country’s largest thermal power plant. 

“It was previously coal fired and made the switch to burning pellets in recent years. It’s still the UK’s largest single CO2 emitter but it’s regarded as carbon neutral because it burns biomass,” he said. 

“The good news is that Drax is implementing BECCS as part of the very ambitious and visionary Zero Carbon Humber Project.” 

“So there is a way to produce these synthetic fuels that could be carbon neutral or carbon negative if the CO2 used in the process has been captured from biogenic emissions.”  

With CO2 utilisation presenting huge technological and commercial opportunities, companies such as dry ice solutions provider TOMCO2 have transitioned into the world of CO2 storage by offering storage units, applications equipment and water treatment solutions. 

Jeff Holyoak, Vice President of Strategy & Development for TOMCO2 revealed what the company has been focusing on. 

“Our focus is more on the commercialisation and utilisation of CO2. We’ve got an entire set of industries that utilise CO2 today for a vast amount of manufacturing, food processing, wastewater treatment, fire suppression, so the continuation of supply and the utilisation of CO2 is critical,” he said. 

With its customers mostly concerned with having access to CO2, Holyoak recognises that the large-scale long term projects will take decades before becoming fully realised. 

“We need CO2 for utilisation at the point of where it’s needed, as opposed to where it’s being produced in large volumes.” 

“With the rapid growth of hydrogen production, we’re generating a tremendous amount of CO2 that is being captured and ultimately sequestered, but at the end of the day, our retail customers need CO2 at the place,” he explained. 

He explained that he sees the value in transitioning away from the current merchant distribution model to a micro distribution model capturing at the source, purifying at the source, reliquefaction at the source and utilising at the source where it’s needed. 

A tax regulation introduced in the US known as 45Q is an incentive to sequester CO2 is going to have ‘great impacts’ long term, according to Holyoak. 

“However, if we start diverting all of our commercial CO2 into sequestering we’re not going to have any retail applications until we come up with alternatives, so that’s where our focus is and we spend most of our time on innovation and product development around that.”

The full webinar can be watched on demand at www.gasworld.tv.