A new report published by the University of Sheffield outlines how the re-use of carbon dioxide (CO2) could help Scotland shift to a more sustainable and circular economy.
The report titled ‘Actions required to develop a roadmap towards a Carbon Dioxide Utilisation Strategy for Scotland (2016)’, was commissioned by Scottish Enterprise to provide an overview of whether the re-use of CO2 could hold potential for Scotland and to recommend a number of actions to develop the sector.
The CO2 emissions from Scotland are predominantly from the use of fossil fuels from industrial sectors such as Oil and Gas, Paper and Wood and energy from waste. In previous years these large emitters produced 10 million tonnes per year, of which 4.3 million tonnes were identified in the report as having potential for capture.
Interest also lies with significant levels of biogenic CO2 which is released as a by-product of the fermentation of malted barley in the Scotch Whisky sector – estimated to be in the region of 500,000 tonnes each year.
The study suggests that the Grangemouth region is the location most suited to create a CO2 utilisation hub on a large industrial scale. It is the largest manufacturing region in Scotland and host to ten of the largest CO2 emitters.
However, the report makes clear that the development of the CO2 re-use sector should not be seen as a substitute for the development of a Carbon Capture and Storage sector.
The principal author of the study Dr Grant Wilson from the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering at the University of Sheffield commented;
“For most countries and policy makers around the world, carbon dioxide is viewed only as a problem that needs to be controlled. However, with the ongoing development of novel technologies and processes for the re-use of CO2 it is also starting to be viewed as a potential resource that could be exploited.”
“This report identifies that Scotland has a unique combination of key advantages and a real opportunity to explore and develop its carbon dioxide resources. It is also important to note that it is one of the first countries in the world to even consider the creation of a roadmap for the re-use of its carbon dioxide, in essence to view CO2 as a resource.”
“This provides a very powerful message in terms of Scotland’s belief in considering all available options to decouple its future economic activity from emissions.”
The report presented a case study with a potential to be scaled up to a £500m market, sustaining 600 new jobs and a new Scottish export by utilising innovative UK technology to convert the estimated 500,000 tonnes of distillery sector (biogenic CO2) into inorganic fertiliser.
The development of this technology could be of interest to Scotland as a way to help decarbonise part of the agricultural sector through the introduction of inorganic fertiliser that is not derived from fossil fuels. The Scottish Government recently published their latest Climate Change Plan and Energy Strategy for consultation, which mentions carbon dioxide re-use and carbon capture and storage as areas of potential development.
Although the University of Sheffield report found that Scotland holds a number of key advantages to develop a carbon dioxide re-use sector, there are several areas of uncertainty that would benefit from more detailed analysis.
• Re-use of CO2 that integrates CO2 back into the economy in a circular manner, with the potential to use CO2 as a feedstock to make other valuable products, such as synthetic fuels, chemical feedstocks and building materials.
• The combination of factors that provide Scotland with this unique opportunity include: an abundance of high purity biogenic CO2 by-product from the food and drink sector; vibrant Carbon Capture and Utilisation (CCU), hydrogen and Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) academic communities; progressive climate & energy policies coupled with world class renewable energy resources.
• The University of Sheffield is home to The UK Centre for Carbon Dioxide Utilisation (CDUUK), which brings together seven academic departments at the University to focus on the utilization of carbon dioxide as a feedstock for chemical synthesis. The centre carries out research in all areas of carbon dioxide (CO2) utilization including, new carbon capture agents, production of fuels and polymers, biological transformations of CO2, life cycle analysis and studies of public perception.
• Dr Grant Wilson is a Teaching and Research Fellow for the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering at the University of Sheffield he is also a member of Energy 2050. Energy 2050 is one of the UK’s largest energy research institutes based at the University of Sheffield, our initiative focuses on energy innovation and knowledge exchange and brings together more than 120 academics, and 250 PhD students. It’s a research institute that goes beyond traditional research boundaries by delivering innovations to power producers and major consumers with technology providers, focused on competitiveness and the de-risking of large scale investment in new technologies both in the UK and internationally.
• The University of Sheffield were Principal Author on the report with major input from the Scottish organisations The Centre of Energy Policy at Strathclyde University, Pale Blue Dot Consultancy and Interface.