Decarbonization Avenue : C2V - CO2 to Value

In fact

Opportunities and challenges for CO2 Recycling

A study has inferred that, when supplied by low-carbon electricity and chemical feedstocks, CO2 recycling pathways have the combined potential to abate 6.8 gigatonnes of CO2 per year when displacing conventional production methods.

That's quite a substantial amount of CO2 abatement.

Interestingly, the study points out that wlectrochemical carbon monoxide production, ethanol from lignocellulosic biomass, concrete carbonation curing, and the CarbonCure concrete process all have an estimated cost of production lower than the product selling price. These pathways have a combined carbon abatement potential of 1.6 gigatonnes of CO2 per year.

Most remaining pathways have an estimated cost of production 2.5 to 7.5 times greater than the product selling price, depending on the locations and contexts.

Recycling CO2 at the scale of current global markets would require enormous new capacity of critical infrastructure. Each pathway at global scale would consume thousands of terawatt hours of electricity, 30–100 million metric tons of hydrogen, and up to 2,000 Mt of CO2 annually. This would require trillions of dollars of infrastructure per pathway to generate and deliver these inputs, including a combined 8,400 gigawatts of renewable energy capacity and 8,000 gigawatts of electrolyzer capacity across all pathways.

Based on these findings, the authors recommend the following set of policy actions:

Without low-carbon electricity and feedstocks, CO2 recycling could potentially be more carbon-intensive than conventional production.

Prioritize certain pathways strategically. Methane and ethane production via recycled CO2 are extremely uneconomic and should be deprioritized. All other pathways are more economically promising and could be the focus of a targeted innovation agenda to reduce costs.

In addition, the following pathways that have an estimated cost of production less than 5 times the selling price could be prioritized for early market growth:

Electrochemical CO production, green hydrogen, ethanol from lignocellulosic biomass, concrete carbonation curing pathways, CO2 recycling urea production, and CO2 hydrogenation to light olefins, methanol, or jet fuel.

Policy makers can promote RD&D to improve the selectivity and energy efficiency of CO2 recycling catalysts.

Create demand pull for early market CO2 recycling products. Governments can use demand pull policies such as public procurement standards to bolster early markets for the most mature CO2 recycling pathways.

Promote build-out of critical infrastructure. To provide for the substantial infrastructure needs of recycling CO2, policy makers can seek to remove barriers to and catalyze investment in building renewables installations, transmission lines, electrolyzers, and CO2 transport pipelines.

Relevant for

  • Corporate sustainability professional
  • Senior & top management
  • Corporate strategy professional
  • Business visionary / thought leader
  • Business/management consultant
  • Chemical engineer
  • Civil or construction engineer
  • Power engineer
  • Solar power professional
  • Wind power professional
  • Public finance professional
  • International finance professional
  • Economist
  • Bureaucrat
  • International policy making professional

Innovation sector

  • Economics
  • Policy-making
  • Renewable energy sciences

Other In fact


  • Corporate researcher
  • Corporate management
  • Government