#07 Carbon Capture Utilization (CCU)
Using CO2 from the air instead of fossil fuels to make products
Read time: 4 minutes
In this week’s issue you will learn about transforming already emitted CO2 into useful materials and products: Carbon Capture Utilization (CCU)
“Industry and government should begin planning for the deployment of carbon dioxide utilization systems enabling a circular economy and in some cases durable removal of CO2 from the atmosphere” - US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
Top CCU News 🗞️
Running shoes made out CO2: On, a Swiss company backed by Roger Federer, has just created the first shoe made out of carbon emissions in the world.
First flight with CO2 made fuel: Air Company fueled the first-ever test flight using 100% unblended sustainable aviation fuel made directly from CO2, conducted in partnership with the U.S. Air Force.
Let’s dive in 🧠
CCU is about getting CO2 from the atmosphere and turning it into something useful.
This solves 2 huge issues at once.
Stop adding new CO2: A LOT of things we use are made with fossil fuels or petrochemicals in some way (plastics, fuels, steel, etc.). If we use emitted CO2 to make these products instead, they become carbon neutral or even carbon negative.
Remove emitted CO2: Even if we stop producing CO2, we still need to remove a lot that we have already emitted in order to get back to healthy atmospheric CO2 levels.
There are many ways to capture CO2, such as Direct Air Capture.
After being captured it can be stored (Carbon Capture Sequestration, CCS) or used (Carbon Capture Utilization, CCU).
Let’s focus on CCU.
Once CO2 is captured, the molecule needs to be transformed into other molecules such as Carbon Monoxide (CO) or Oxygen (O2) that can be used by different industries to make stuff.
There are several ways to do this but currently the most common one is by using electricity and some chemical elements that make the reaction happen.
Those basic molecules can then be used to make all sorts of stuff!
Here are some cool examples:
Vodka: It’s basically pure ethanol, which contains carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. Air Company has found a way to make vodka from captured CO2 so you can enjoy an “Airtini”.
Diamonds: They are pure carbon, so Aether Diamonds is using captured CO2 to make them. The first carbon-negative diamonds, 20 tons of CO2 per carat sold.
Concrete: CarbonCure is injecting CO2 into concrete while it's mixing, which enables a reduction in the carbon footprint while maintaining the concrete's strength and performance.
Chemicals: D-CRBN has created the cheapest and most efficient way to turn CO2 into carbon monoxide (CO), which can be used or transformed into chemicals used in many industries. They separate CO2 with plasma instead of chemicals!
There are many more ways captured carbon can be used.
CCU has huge potential to help fix climate change because it gives companies new revenue streams, helps them be compliant with emissions regulations and makes customers like them more.
It makes ethical, economical and regulatory sense to use CCU.
They are just challenges.
Cost: Most CCU today requires rare-earth elements for the chemical reaction, which are expensive. There are now cheaper ways such as D-CRBN’s plasma.
Energy: The process usually requires a lot of electricity, that’s why making sure it comes from clean sources is key.
Top CCU Companies 💰
There are now many startups raising millions and having huge companies wanting to partner with them to help them decarbonize.
Aether Diamonds: NY based, founded in 2018. They make the world’s first and only carbon negative diamonds.
D-CRBN: Belgium based, founded in 2021. The make carbon monoxide (CO) from CO2 by using plasma. CO can be used in many industries.
Air Company: NY based, founded in 2017. They make vodka, eau de parfum, hand sanitizer and aviation fuel.
Twelve: California based, founded in 2015. They make chemicals and aviation fuel by transforming CO2 through a chemical process.
Lanzatech: Illinois based, founded in 2005. They use bacteria to turn pollution into fuels and chemicals.
❗Extreme knowledge area❗
CCU 2022 status report: The International Energy Agency’s analysis of the current landscape and targets.
That’s it for today, 1 climate tech topic in under 5 minutes.
Next week… Green Hydrogen! 🤯
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