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Climate climate change efforts on reducing co2 why not recycle it  | Upload Man-Made

Climate Change Efforts On Reducing CO2 Why Not Recycle It?

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by: Sharai Hoekema
climate change efforts on reducing co2 why not recycle it  | Upload

Most climate change efforts have been focused on reducing the amount of CO2 that is blown into our atmosphere. That is a fact - and definitely not one I am about to start arguing with. Research showing that CO2 is one of the main culprits driving global warming is plentiful and well established; and any and all attempts to reduce our reliance on the scarce resources emitting it should be applauded and encouraged. 

Recycling CO2 by sucking it up

Yet today, I would like to take a look at the matter from a slightly different perspective. There have been attempts made to quite literally suck the carbon dioxide out of our atmosphere. Nature already takes on a third of this work, soaking up carbon dioxide just by 'being'. In the past years, we have learned to do the same, whether through smart land management or through high-tech plants. 

Especially the latter solution has received a lot of interest - and much-needed funding! - from the scientific field. In its simplest form, it appears like a machine that is able to scrub carbon dioxide from the air. While it might sound simple, it is far from. The filtering of huge volumes of air through a scrubber requires immense amounts of energy. Although while it is certainly cumbersome, it is not impossible, as has been proven by companies like Carbon Engineering and Climeworks. These run CO2 capturing facilities in Canada, Iceland, Switzerland, and Italy. 

Through those activities, some 1,500 tons of carbon dioxide is captured each year. And there are still plenty of other ways of extracting carbon dioxide: scientists are heavily experimenting with projects that involve the use of seawater to absorb carbon dioxide from the air, and the weathering of rocks to react with carbon dioxide. All in all, we can expect considerable amounts of CO2 to be taken out of the atmosphere as a result of those technologies.

What to do with the excess CO2?

Before anything else, let me make something perfectly clear. This will not in any sense be a 'solution' for global warming. No one will pretend it is - it is not a get out of jail free card, nor is it a fix in and of itself. The current capacity is falling painfully short of what would be needed to even make a dent in global emissions, and the technology is too costly to implement on a massive scale. Yet it will prove to be a good addition to a healthy diet of restrictions on emissions; and increased reliance on renewable energy sources.

Now that the technologies driving carbon dioxide removal are becoming more established, a new urgent question is arising: what to do with this excess CO2? While some have argued for safely storing it underground after ‘harvesting’ it, others have found ways of turning it into a raw material that has some promising applications. And this is, in my opinion, where it gets interesting: how can we re-use this substance to make it more than just a waste-product?

If the re-using of carbon dioxide for other applications proves to be valuable, huge steps can be taken towards making CO2 removal more profitable. While large polluters are presently hesitant to invest in those kind of solutions to offset some of their emissions, this may drastically change once there is an actual business case for doing so. After all, it is human nature to look at profits before anything else - so if it will actually benefit their bottom line, it is definitely an argument for increasing their CO2 removal activities.

Some of those re-use cases are already well-researched and even applied in real life. Take San Francisco International Airport, whose Terminal One has been partially built using rocks infused with CO2 emissions. Yes, that’s right: you can turn CO2 into rock. It will be converted into carbonate and mineralised, isolating it with a coating of limestone. This process actually occurs in nature as well: the famous White Cliffs of Dover serve as the poster child of CO2 stored in rocks. 

A plus of this technology is that it does not require the carbon dioxide to be purified first: it can be used straight out of the plant and put to good use by turning it into a rock-solid building material. The California-based company Blue Planet has explored this avenue and made it its mission to turn construction projects into CO2-reducing operations, by using rock infused with carbon emissions for the building of roads, bridges, residences and office buildings. It is quite something, allowing the building industry to offset (some of) its carbon footprint.

A solution that is closely related to the previous, is the use of CO2 to make cement. The process is somewhat similar to that of rock, only this time the raw flue gas from the plant is infused in calcium, releasing the CO2 and resulting in calcium carbonate - which, when dried, results in cement. A great alternative to regular cement-producing methods, which are notoriously pollutive: the global cement industry is responsible for 6% of all global carbon emissions, with only very few initiatives in place that are looking to push back those numbers. 

The far majority of those polluters are based in China and India, which has made it harder for the lobbyists of this technology to actually make a difference: even innovative projects such as the one launched by Novacem, a London-based start-up, failed to do so. Their proposal for a technology to replace the 'conventional' binding material in concrete with magnesium oxide, a material that will capture carbon dioxide when it is mixed with water, fell through when they did not find any investors.

Another material that is used often, despite being highly polluting, is carbon fibre. It has many applications because of its superior strength and light weight, in particular in the automotive and aerospace industry, although those benefits do not outweigh the grave damage that its production inflicts on the environment. Not only do its energy needs exceed those of steel, it also relies on petroleum for its production. 

In an attempt to change this, scientists from Munich came up with a new production process. Here, carbon dioxide is fed to algae - turning carbon dioxide into carbon fibre. These special algae, capable of glycerol-production, can be cultivated in ponds near the Mediterranean coast, after which it will be fed carbon dioxide to create the highly coveted carbon fibre. And with their sights set on the construction industry as well, in a bid to replace steel or aluminium beams, these German entrepreneurs are definitely looking to create a market for their carbon dioxide-infused carbon fibre.

Staying on the topic of re-using CO2 for building purposes: the British start-up Econic Technologies has come up with a way to incorporate CO2 emissions in polyurethane foams and similar plastics. This polyurethane is used for, for instance, mattresses, furniture, upholstery and car seats; alongside serving its purpose as an insulation material for houses. More and more people are looking to insulate their homes, as part of another government initiative pushed to combat climate change, and how to do so better than by re-using carbon dioxide, taken directly from the atmosphere?

The usual production process of polyurethane involves the use of oil and requires quite a bit of energy. Using carbon dioxide instead, it will become environmentally friendlier ánd cheaper at the same time: much less of the more expensive oil is required. So you can make your house greener by using an insulation product that actively greens up the environment as well: the founders of the start-up claim that if they could only get 30% of the industry to implement their technology, it could already cut back CO2 emissions by some 3.5 million tons per year. 

The examples given above - effectively turning CO2 in rocks, cement, carbon fibre or insulation foam - are only a handful of the many initiatives that have popped up in recent years that are hoping to put the freshly captured CO2 to good use. And while you might debate the individual benefits of each solution, the overarching conclusion will remain the same: extracting CO2 emissions from the atmosphere is just the first step of a potentially highly profitable process, that could lead to breakthrough innovations in some of the largest polluting industries. 

Re-using CO2 emissions to fuel technologies that will cut back even more CO2 emissions: a promising cycle, that should be nurtured.

https://www.whatsorb.com/solution/climate/natural

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Climate Change Efforts On Reducing CO2 Why Not Recycle It?

Most climate change efforts have been focused on reducing the amount of CO2 that is blown into our atmosphere. That is a fact - and definitely not one I am about to start arguing with. Research showing that CO2 is one of the main culprits driving global warming is plentiful and well established; and any and all attempts to reduce our reliance on the scarce resources emitting it should be applauded and encouraged.   Recycling CO2 by sucking it up Yet today, I would like to take a look at the matter from a slightly different perspective. There have been attempts made to quite literally suck the carbon dioxide out of our atmosphere. Nature already takes on a third of this work, soaking up carbon dioxide just by 'being'. In the past years, we have learned to do the same, whether through smart land management or through high-tech plants.   Especially the latter solution has received a lot of interest - and much-needed funding! - from the scientific field. In its simplest form, it appears like a machine that is able to scrub carbon dioxide from the air. While it might sound simple, it is far from. The filtering of huge volumes of air through a scrubber requires immense amounts of energy. Although while it is certainly cumbersome, it is not impossible, as has been proven by companies like Carbon Engineering and Climeworks. These run CO2 capturing facilities in Canada, Iceland, Switzerland, and Italy.   Through those activities, some 1,500 tons of carbon dioxide is captured each year. And there are still plenty of other ways of extracting carbon dioxide: scientists are heavily experimenting with projects that involve the use of seawater to absorb carbon dioxide from the air, and the weathering of rocks to react with carbon dioxide. All in all, we can expect considerable amounts of CO2 to be taken out of the atmosphere as a result of those technologies. What to do with the excess CO2? Before anything else, let me make something perfectly clear. This will not in any sense be a 'solution' for global warming. No one will pretend it is - it is not a get out of jail free card, nor is it a fix in and of itself. The current capacity is falling painfully short of what would be needed to even make a dent in global emissions, and the technology is too costly to implement on a massive scale. Yet it will prove to be a good addition to a healthy diet of restrictions on emissions; and increased reliance on renewable energy sources . Now that the technologies driving carbon dioxide removal are becoming more established, a new urgent question is arising: what to do with this excess CO2? While some have argued for safely storing it underground after ‘harvesting’ it, others have found ways of turning it into a raw material that has some promising applications. And this is, in my opinion, where it gets interesting: how can we re-use this substance to make it more than just a waste-product? If the re-using of carbon dioxide for other applications proves to be valuable, huge steps can be taken towards making CO2 removal more profitable. While large polluters are presently hesitant to invest in those kind of solutions to offset some of their emissions, this may drastically change once there is an actual business case for doing so. After all, it is human nature to look at profits before anything else - so if it will actually benefit their bottom line, it is definitely an argument for increasing their CO2 removal activities. Some of those re-use cases are already well-researched and even applied in real life. Take San Francisco International Airport, whose Terminal One has been partially built using rocks infused with CO2 emissions. Yes, that’s right: you can turn CO2 into rock . It will be converted into carbonate and mineralised, isolating it with a coating of limestone. This process actually occurs in nature as well: the famous White Cliffs of Dover serve as the poster child of CO2 stored in rocks.   A plus of this technology is that it does not require the carbon dioxide to be purified first: it can be used straight out of the plant and put to good use by turning it into a rock-solid building material. The California-based company Blue Planet has explored this avenue and made it its mission to turn construction projects into CO2-reducing operations, by using rock infused with carbon emissions for the building of roads, bridges, residences and office buildings. It is quite something, allowing the building industry to offset (some of) its carbon footprint. A solution that is closely related to the previous, is the use of CO2 to make cement . The process is somewhat similar to that of rock, only this time the raw flue gas from the plant is infused in calcium, releasing the CO2 and resulting in calcium carbonate - which, when dried, results in cement. A great alternative to regular cement-producing methods, which are notoriously pollutive: the global cement industry is responsible for 6% of all global carbon emissions, with only very few initiatives in place that are looking to push back those numbers.   The far majority of those polluters are based in China and India, which has made it harder for the lobbyists of this technology to actually make a difference: even innovative projects such as the one launched by Novacem, a London-based start-up, failed to do so. Their proposal for a technology to replace the 'conventional' binding material in concrete with magnesium oxide, a material that will capture carbon dioxide when it is mixed with water, fell through when they did not find any investors. Another material that is used often, despite being highly polluting, is carbon fibre. It has many applications because of its superior strength and light weight, in particular in the automotive and aerospace industry, although those benefits do not outweigh the grave damage that its production inflicts on the environment . Not only do its energy needs exceed those of steel, it also relies on petroleum for its production.   In an attempt to change this, scientists from Munich came up with a new production process. Here, carbon dioxide is fed to algae - turning carbon dioxide into carbon fibre . These special algae, capable of glycerol-production, can be cultivated in ponds near the Mediterranean coast, after which it will be fed carbon dioxide to create the highly coveted carbon fibre. And with their sights set on the construction industry as well, in a bid to replace steel or aluminium beams, these German entrepreneurs are definitely looking to create a market for their carbon dioxide-infused carbon fibre. Staying on the topic of re-using CO2 for building purposes: the British start-up Econic Technologies has come up with a way to incorporate CO2 emissions in polyurethane foams and similar plastics. This polyurethane is used for, for instance, mattresses, furniture, upholstery and car seats; alongside serving its purpose as an insulation material for houses. More and more people are looking to insulate their homes, as part of another government initiative pushed to combat climate change, and how to do so better than by re-using carbon dioxide, taken directly from the atmosphere? The usual production process of polyurethane involves the use of oil and requires quite a bit of energy. Using carbon dioxide instead, it will become environmentally friendlier ánd cheaper at the same time: much less of the more expensive oil is required. So you can make your house greener by using an insulation product that actively greens up the environment as well: the founders of the start-up claim that if they could only get 30% of the industry to implement their technology, it could already cut back CO2 emissions by some 3.5 million tons per year.   The examples given above - effectively turning CO2 in rocks, cement, carbon fibre or insulation foam - are only a handful of the many initiatives that have popped up in recent years that are hoping to put the freshly captured CO2 to good use. And while you might debate the individual benefits of each solution, the overarching conclusion will remain the same: extracting CO2 emissions from the atmosphere is just the first step of a potentially highly profitable process, that could lead to breakthrough innovations in some of the largest polluting industries.   Re-using CO2 emissions to fuel technologies that will cut back even more CO2 emissions: a promising cycle, that should be nurtured. https://www.whatsorb.com/solution/climate/natural
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