New Process Could Increase the Value of Captured Carbon Dioxide

In my view, carbon capture will probably be necessary to mitigate the worst effects of climate change in the future. The beneficial incentives for capturing it are therefore welcome developments. Also, this possible development is not the only recent advance in carbon capture — there is also a more definitive recent advance that converts captured carbon dioxide into valuable chemicals.

Carbon capture could help the nation’s coal plants reduce greenhouse gas emissions, yet economic challenges are part of the reason the technology isn’t widely used today. That could change if power plants could turn captured carbon into a useable product.

Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory have developed an efficient process for turning captured carbon dioxide into syngas, a mixture of H2 and CO that can be used to make fuels and chemicals. The team has published its results in Green Chemistry, a publication of the Royal Society of Chemistry.

Traditional approaches for reusing the carbon from CO2 involve a reduction step that requires high temperatures and pressures. At lower temperatures, the CO2 doesn’t stay dissolved in water long enough to be useful. The process developed at INL addresses this challenge by using specialized liquid materials that make the CO2 more soluble and allow the carbon capture medium to be directly introduced into a cell for electrochemical conversion to syngas.

“For the first time it was demonstrated that syngas can be directly produced from captured CO2 — eliminating the requirement of downstream separations,” the researchers wrote in the Green Chemistry paper.