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Carbon Use and Reuse

Carbon dioxide is thermodynamically stable, but it is still reactive under certain conditions that do not necessarily require intensive energy input. Using CO2 as a feedstock for a variety of products is a promising research area, particularly in conjunction with energy generated from renewable energy sources. The Carbon Use and Reuse Technology Area seeks to support the development of technologies identified as having the greatest potential to help boost the commodity market for CO2 while producing no additional CO2 emissions. Doing this will require a comprehensive understanding of product markets in addition to their conventional energy balances and life cycles.

Recent studies of current and potential CO2 use opportunities suggest that CO2 utilization will not be effective as a tool to mitigate GHG emissions by itself—largely because the CO2 demand from implementing these opportunities is expected to be only a small fraction of expected supply. However, the cumulative sum of these options could provide a number of technological mechanisms to utilize CO2 in a manner that can potentially provide economic benefits for fossil fuel-fired power plants or industrial processes. 

CO2 utilization through enhanced oil recovery (EOR) could also be pursued as a means to help offset capture costs, thereby accelerating geologic storage implementation. While DOE supports this endeavor, the focus of this technology area is on CO2 utilization approaches that offer benefits, such as:

  • Improvement in energy efficiency (i.e., requires less power per unit of product than the conventional process).
  • Replacement or reduction in petroleum feedstocks.
  • Low or no water requirements.
  • Utilization and/or reduction of waste streams.
  • Replacement of one or more toxic materials that require special handling to protect human health and the environment.

The program supports research that will improve the nation’s scientific understanding in three key technologies:  





The key technologies are focused on boosting the commodity market for CO2. They strive to utilize CO2 in valued products with a cost metric of less than $10 per metric ton of CO2 while making no additional contribution to CO2 emissions. Other benefits include increased energy security due to reduced oil imports, improved balance of payments for international trade, and providing U.S. industry with potentially low-cost options for reducing GHG emissions. Each key technology for Carbon Use and Reuse has a specific research pathway. More information on each key technology research pathway can be viewed by clicking on the hyperlinks in the table above. The timeline for each research pathway begins with applied research (TRL 2–4) that advances through development (TRL 5–6) and ends with large-scale testing (TRL 7–9).