Conversion of CO2 to Value-Added Specialty Chemicals

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In the past two centuries, fossil fuel supplied by coal, petroleum and natural gas has played a key role in establishing the modern world economy. When the global demand for electricity increased from 8.3 million GWh in 1980 to 23.8 million GWh in 2014, the resulting annual CO2 emission increased from 5.5 to 13.3 trillion tonnes. Today the global demand for energy-intensive products, such as ammonia and plastics, is also expanding with the growing population and improved standards of living in emerging markets. The challenges associated with CO2 capture, transport, and storage have been well documented, and other proposed non-sequestration economic solutions are envisioned as a series of “wedges.” For example, CO2 generated from ethanol plants is used commercially for food products. Enhanced oil recovery (EOR) remains the largest-scale commercial use and currently, EOR has over 126 projects globally; some consuming 2 MMtonne CO2/yr. However, few major industrial CO2 generation sources (e.g. refineries, petrochemical production, ammonia/urea manufacturing facilities, small to medium capacity fossil power generation plants etc.) are located close to these EOR sites. Additional economic solutions outlined by major oil and gas companies include CO2 conversion to products. Emerging technologies for converting captured CO2 to value-added products include production of fuels, biosynthesis (e.g. algae), specialty chemicals, and solid products (e.g. concrete). E3Tec is pursuing a DOE SBIR project utilizing captured CO2 for manufacturing alkyl carbonates – a class of chemicals for which the world market is growing. The SBIR project focuses on the techno-economic merits of an integrated process of CO2 capture and conversion process, recognizing that utilization of this captured CO2 is another small “wedge” that will contribute to the global CO2 abatement goals. Utilization of captured CO2 to manufacture high-value products will provide economic incentives to pursue implementation in the foreseeable future, while other options of CO2 abatement are being implemented. E3Tec performed an ASPEN Plus® process simulation to develop an economic a case study utilizing a fraction of the CO2 generated from a coal utility plant. It was found that CO2 conversion to a high-value product would significantly offset the overall costs associated with CO2 capture and sequestration. Thus, it will have minimum impact on the cost of electricity (COE). Furthermore, the carbon-footprint (C-footprint) analysis based on this ASPEN Plus® process simulation showed significant CO2 abatement potentials compared to current practices. The techno-economic merit and C-footprint analyses performed in this SBIR project can be extended to other utilization technologies for converting captured CO2 to value-added products. These include methanol utilizing hydrogen generated from renewable energy, conversion to fuels by utilizing low-carbon or renewable energy sources, algae production, concrete, and other specialty chemicals.

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Journal: TechConnect Briefs
Volume: 2, Materials for Energy, Efficiency and Sustainability: TechConnect Briefs 2018
Published: May 13, 2018
Pages: 183 - 186
Industry sector: Energy & Sustainability
Topic: Carbon Capture & Utilization
ISBN: 978-0-9975117-9-6