Foreword to the CO2 Forum 2nd edition
by C. Fussler and A. Quadrelli, conference chair :
“In a green economy of the future, is there a place for a chemistry that uses carbon dioxide as a raw material for fuels and polymers and contributes to attenuate climate change, one of the most daunting side-effect of our economic growth?
In this second CO2 Forum we will hear about the progress made by leading scientists in turning the carbon emissions problem into sustainable chemistry solutions.
In its latest Energy Technology Perspectives 2012 the International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that, on current trends, global CO2 emissions are bound to top 60 Gtons by 2050. Even taking governments’ and industry’s climate pledges seriously, they would only stabilize at 40 Gtons with an expected temperature rise of 4°C. The world will be a much harsher place for economic and human activities. To avoid global temperatures rising over the safe limit of 2°C global CO2 emissions must be taken down to 17 Gtons/year, half of the 2009 levels.
The most drastic energy efficiency, fuel substitution and non-carbon energy sources cannot achieve this cut alone. As a last resort industry must start capturing CO2 at the source and keep it reliably away from the atmosphere. The IEA calculates that between 2015 and 2030, a yearly 2,4 Gtons of CO2 must be captured, growing to 7,8 Gtons /year by 2050, thus cumulating to 123 Gtons over the period.
The prevailing view is that this captured CO2 should be stored in aquifers or oil reservoirs. While the global storage capacity may be available, theoretically, for this volume (almost 100 000 km3 by 2050) there is no specific evaluation of the distribution of real useable storage locations, their social acceptability, the necessary infrastructure capital and distribution costs.
As an alternative to storage, the recovery of the carbon content in these captured streams and its chemical processing into existing hydrocarbon and chemical markets can create a circular carbon economy. It would replace additional fossil feedstock transfers to the atmosphere and contribute to containing the climate risk.
CO2 is a very stable molecule. Carbon recovery and reuse only make environmental sense if they are achieved with no net CO2 emissions compared to storage or other avoidance alternatives.
The agenda of this second CO2 Forum speaks for itself: chemical and energy solutions are progressing. But they will not happen spontaneously. Therefore the CO2 Forum also endeavours to create a fruitful dialogue between scientists, industry emitters and users, and policy makers. This is essential for anticipating and resolving bottlenecks and barriers.
It is urgent for all leaders in research, industry and government policy to take all the steps that reduce the climate change risk. Hence adding to the efforts in energy efficiency and renewable non-carbon sources, the efforts of closing the carbon cycle will be a source of innovations and valuable sustainable chemistry solutions. “