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About Carbon Utilization

DOE’s Carbon Utilization Program aspires to develop technologies to transform CO2 and other carbon byproducts and wastes into valuable products in an efficient, economical, and environmentally-friendly manner. Research and development activities address the challenges and potential opportunities associated with integrating a CO2 utilization system with a power plant and/or carbon capture system, such as waste heat integration, waste water reduction, flue gas contaminant reduction, and reduced energy demand. An ongoing program objective is to make technologies applicable for near-term implementation. Developing advanced catalysts, reactor systems, and processes for more efficient conversion of CO2 to valuable chemicals provides a viable alternative to conventional manufacturing processes.

The emerging field of CO2 utilization encompasses many possible products and applications: fuels, organic and inorganic chemicals, food and feeds, construction materials, enhanced resource recovery (e.g., oil, gas, water, and geothermal energy), energy storage, waste water treatment, and others.

Use and Re-Use
Major Carbon Utilization Product Pathways and Potential Products

 

The Carbon Utilization Program covers research within three of the five primary carbon utilization pathways:

  • CO2 Conversion to Biomass – The use of CO2 in agricultural and aquacultural systems for the cultivation and harvesting of biomass. Biomass has a range of potential uses, and may be converted to fuels, chemicals, animal or human foodstuffs, soil supplements, and other specialty and fine products.
  • Abiotic Synthesis of Fuels & Organic Chemicals – The conversion of CO2 to hydrocarbon-based products, ranging from neat fuels and fuel blending stocks to commodity, specialty, and fine chemicals. Unlike biotic synthesis, abiotic synthesis employs inorganic catalysts, not organisms. Thermochemical, electrochemical and non-equilibrium plasma chemistry are sub-pathways of abiotic synthesis.
  • Synthesis of Inorganic Materials & Chemicals – The conversion of CO2 to inorganic products, such as carbonate cements and aggregate, or bicarbonates and associated inorganic chemicals. Chemical as well as biological processes may be employed to affect this conversion.
  • Biotic Synthesis of Fuels & Organic Chemicals* – The conversion of CO2 to hydrocarbon-based products, ranging from neat fuels and fuel blending stocks to commodity, specialty, and fine chemicals. Unlike conversion to biomass, the approach here is to use single-cell organisms to produce and secrete a chemical directly, without the need to harvest and process biomass.
  • CO2 as Working Fluid & Other Services* – The physical use of CO2 in processes that produce useful goods, such as the injection of CO2 for enhanced oil recovery (EOR), the use of CO2 as a solvent to purify a product, and the use of CO2 as a refrigerant to cool a process. In these services, the CO2 molecule remains physically intact.

*The program is currently not active in the Biotic Synthesis of Fuels & Organic Chemicals and CO2 as Working Fluid & Other Services pathways.

 

The diverse portfolio of NETL’s Carbon Utilization projects can be viewed in the interactive map below. Projects can be sorted by Technology Area. Clicking on a location allows you to learn more about each individual project and adjusting the Icon Spread Factor allows you to simultaneously view projects with the same locations.