Carbon Dioxide Mitigation Using Renewable Power

Source: AIChE
  • Type:
    Conference Presentation
  • Conference Type:
    AIChE Spring Meeting and Global Congress on Process Safety
  • Presentation Date:
    August 18, 2020
  • Duration:
    20 minutes
  • Skill Level:
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Combatting global climate change from anthropogenic CO2 emissions is an active area of discussion and research. One area of considerable excitement is the “utilization” of CO2 as a raw material for producing valuable products, such as building materials, fuels, and chemical building blocks [1]. Such utilization is challenged due to the energy input required for the chemical conversion of CO2. There is a growing recognition that, if the energy is provided from fossil resources, the CO2 produced is greater than that consumed [2]. This problem appears to be overcome if renewable energy is utilized for the conversion of CO2. However, approaches other than CO2 “utilization” are available for the use of renewable energy to mitigate CO2 emissions. Examples include (i) electrolysis of water to hydrogen, using the hydrogen in a fuel cell for transportation, and (ii) direct use of renewable power for battery electric vehicles. These alternate routes mitigate CO2 by using renewable power to displace the combustion of fossil fuels for transportation.

As we tackle the technical, economic, environmental, and resource management issues related to the use of renewable energy for CO2 mitigation, it is important to understand the potential “efficiencies” for the conversion of renewable energy in the various approaches. We should view renewable energy, in particular renewable power, as a valuable resource, not as a “cheap” or “free” resource to be used indiscriminately. Both thermodynamic and practical arguments will be made to make realistic estimates of the magnitude of CO2 consumed or displaced from various schemes that utilize renewable power. Renewable power through the grid to a battery electric vehicle is nearly four times as effective at mitigating CO2 emissions as using liquid fuel via electroreduction of CO2. Electrolysis of water with renewable power to produce hydrogen for a fuel cell vehicle is about twice as effective at mitigating CO2 as electroreduction of CO2.

This is not an attempt to cover the complete life cycle analysis and greenhouse gas impacts of each scheme discussed. This is an attempt to provide an approximate ranking of the effectiveness of the various schemes that utilize renewable power to mitigate CO2 emissions. It is believed that inclusion of the thermodynamics for the major energy-consuming steps for each scheme will allow this ranking to be done. It is hoped the perspective this provides will help researchers prioritize their available resources into areas that have the greatest potential impact for CO2 mitigation via renewable power.


X. Lim, "How to Make the Most of Carbon Dioxide," Nature, vol. 526, pp. 628-630, 2015.


S. Stevenson, "Thermodynamic Considerations in CO2 Utilization," AICHE Journal, 2019.

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