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Could Carbon Capture and Sequestration of Waste CO2 Generate Profits for Enterprising Companies?

Could Carbon Capture and Sequestration of Waste CO2 Generate Profits for Enterprising Companies?

Carbon Capture and Sequestration to reduce atmospheric CO2

When it comes to global warming and climate change, carbon dioxide is a major culprit. Although not the most potent greenhouse gas, it is one of the most abundant, and is produced both naturally and by human activities. To curb anthropogenic carbon emissions, much focus has been placed on turning to renewable sources of energy that don't produce any greenhouse gas emissions. Yet, another solution would be to implement carbon capture and sequestration programs that capture waste CO2 and turn it into fuels and chemicals that can be sold for a profit, before it escapes into the atmosphere.

Moving from Carbon Capture and Storage to Carbon Capture and Usage

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An article titled 'Learning to Love CO2' that was recently published in Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN), the weekly news magazine produced by the American Chemical Society, discusses the potential of CO2 capture and usage, both in terms of its value as a resource, and in climate change mitigation. While the idea of carbon capture and sequestration has been tossed around a fair bit as one means of reducing greenhouse gases and mitigating climate change, the focus has to a large degree been on carbon capture and storage rather than on actually utilizing the captured/stored carbon as a profitable resource.

According to the article's author, Alex Scott, who is a senior editor of the C&EN, there are no clear cut answers to these issues. There are a number of companies that have seen the potential of CO2 as a valuable resource rather than a liability, and are endeavoring to capitalize on the growing demand for fuels and chemicals and the urgency to reduce atmospheric CO2 emissions by implementing carbon capture and usage (CCU) programs. However, this practice is relatively new, and as it's still in its infancy stage, many challenges are yet to be addressed. The processes that have currently be developed to achieve CCU are both expensive and energy-intensive. Consequently, the products produced by CCU are prohibitively expensive — methanol produced from CO2, for example, costs nearly three times as much as methanol produced from natural gas. But the climate change conference taking place in Paris may see new regulations being rolled out that will place heavier restrictions on CO2 emissions, which may in turn make CCU more profitable, and thus more viable for companies to pursue. However, whether this would make any difference in terms of climate change mitigation, remains to be seen, as it is projected that should the chemical industry turn to CCU as a replacement to fossil fuels the 300 million metric tons of CO2 it would consume hardly dents the 14 billion metric tons produced by coal-fired power stations every year. But it is a start, and it would be turning a waste product into something of value. Journal Reference Alex Scott. Learning to Love CO2. C&EN. Vol 93 Issue 45, (pp. 10-16). Nov 16, 2015.
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