The logic of global demographic trends can seem inescapable: the more the global population grows, the more resources are consumed and the greater the resulting CO2 emissions.
Carbon capture and utilization (CCU) technologies disrupt this logic by turning CO2 into a resource with commercial value. CCU uses CO2 captured from power generation or industrial processes as a feedstock for essential high-volume materials such as cement, chemicals, plastics, minerals, biomass and fuels. The more such products are made using CCU, the less CO2 goes into the atmosphere.
Still, CCU technologies are nascent and lack the financing and commercialization ecosystem needed to realize their full potential. Enter the Global CO2 Initiative and its R&D platform, CO2 Sciences, led by Dr. Issam Dairanieh, who left a position as head of BP’s corporate venturing unit to bring his technology commercialization experience to the challenge of climate change.
EYQ recently asked Dr. Dairanieh to share his perspective on the opportunity for CCU innovations and his organization’s approach to catalyzing CCU investment and technology development.
Q: Why do we need CCU innovations today?
Looking at the pace of global carbon emissions, it’s clear that to limit global warming to 2° Celsius, we don’t just need carbon neutral technologies, we need carbon negative technologies. Trees are the best carbon negative technology, but unfortunately they’re not very fast.
Q: How big is the CCU opportunity?
We commissioned an exhaustive study to assess the business and environmental potential of using CO2 as the feedstock for 25 major commercial products on the market today.
Making these products with CCU has the potential to consume four gigatons of CO2 annually by 2030. That’s a little bit over 10% of the 36 gigatons emitted per annum today. Commercializing these products has an annual revenue potential of US$800 billion to US$1.1 trillion.
CCU requires changing just one point in your value chain — swapping in CO2 as a feedstock for existing products. Your product, customers, logistics, sales and marketing all remain the same. There is huge opportunity for incumbents to adopt CCU as a low carbon strategy and competitive differentiator.
You can envision interesting cross-sector partnerships between high CO2 emitters and materials companies. Utilities have an opportunity to convert the emissions from their regulated operations into a business opportunity for their non-regulated operations.