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Capture and Recycle That CO2

Words by Bill DiBenedetto
Energy & Environment

Why not take the next step after capture and storage of carbon dioxide and actually make productive use of it? It is possible, and some companies are doing just that.

Here’s what we know: A recent article in Alternative Energy News says that carbon dioxide, a major byproduct of industrial power generation, is generated in enormous volumes each year. And CO2 is the main culprit responsible for climate change.

The author goes on to outline extensive research on how CO2 emissions from oil facilities and coal plants can be captured and stored. Various projects examined the viability of capturing CO2 before it enters the atmosphere, compressing it, and then storing it underground. “So, if we could find a way to capture and reuse that wasted gas, in addition to what we’re already doing to reduce the amount released into the atmosphere, we’d be in a much better position in our global battle against climate change,” the AEN article continues.

This apparently is part of a new wave in the industry known as the circular economy, because carbon capture does not come cheap — it can cost about $90 to recover valuable, useful carbon from only 1 ton of smoke. But a variety of useful products can be made from that recovered carbon, so the costs might eventually be offset.

Companies that are using CO2 creatively include Novomer, which, along with Albemarle Corp., successfully made polypropylene carbonate (PPC) using carbon dioxide waste and is manufacturing with the help of these polyols. Polyols produce better quality adhesives for industrial use. Research for the project was conducted with funding from the Department of Energy’s Office of Fossil Energy.

Also, Bayer uses C02 to produce polyurethanes, which can be used in making soft foam used in mattresses.

The article continued that a handful of companies are also applying innovations in the way that carbon dioxide is used once it is captured from coal-plant fumes. Dry CO2 cleaning “is a new and innovative technology that utilizes recycled carbon dioxide in a number of creative industrial applications,” including cooling machine tools, cleaning complex medical instruments and electronic devices, selective extraction, and even eco-friendly dry cleaning, AEN reports.

Several other industries are re-purposing C02, including:


  • The plastics industry uses captured CO2 for constructing polymers and poly carbonate.

  • The beverage industry uses the recycled gas for carbonated drinks.

  • Fire extinguishers use the gas for fire suppression.

  • CO2 can be used as shield gas in welding, protection for carbon powder, as an inert agent for blanket products, injected into metal casings, propellant in aerosol cans, dry ice pellets for sand blasting and dry ice in refrigeration.

There does appear to be a future for CO2 recycling despite its current “prohibitive” costs. New research could make it applicable on a much larger scale. So, as costs decline, maybe the buzz will be about "carbon capture and recycling" for a range of industries instead of “carbon capture and storage.” After all, there’s a big supply of CO2 and more is being produced all the time.

Image: 1) Flickr/Dawn Ellner 2) CO2 emissions from Alternative Energy News

Bill DiBenedetto

writer, editor, reader and general good (ok mostly good, well sometimes good) guy trying to get by

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