TechnoEconomicEnvironmental Assessment Method for CO2Utilization in Chemicals Production Based on Evidence from StartUps and Literature

A. Zimmermann, M. Kant, R. Schomäcker, J. Kratzer
TU Berlin,

Keywords: techno-economic assessment, environmental assessment, CO2 utilisation, start-ups


Greenhouse gas emissions and the resulting anthropogenic climate change create tremendous economic, ecologic and social challenges for societies today and in the future. To mitigate these effects, world leaders agreed to limit global warming to two-degrees compared to preindustrial times, which translates to an atmospheric CO2-concentration of 450 ppm. To reach this goal, global annual greenhouse gas emissions have to decrease by 40 to 70 percent until 2050 and to near-zero until 2100. Major reductions are suggested to be generated from energy efficiency measures, renewable energies and carbon capture and storage. One additional emissions reduction pathway is CO2 utilization, which takes CO2 from point sources or from air and utilizes it in large-scale applications. This way CO2 becomes a process agent or even a carbon source, which leads to the substitution of fossil fuels and lower overall greenhouse gas emissions. Whether or not emission reductions from CO2 utilization can be realized, largely depends on the rapid implementation in large-scale industrial processes and markets. While the political pressure and support is high, most current CO2 consuming reaction pathways have not yet passed lab-stage technology levels and industrial feasibility is mostly not yet proven. Many projects described in literature are in the stage of catalyst and reaction optimisation. In many cases evaluations of early-stage base chemicals, intermediates, polymer or fuel reaction pathways have been carried out in literature, often described as “techno-economic” assessment. However it remains unclear what indicators such a techno-economic assessment should include or which procedure it should follow. While critical success factors for large-scale implementation lie within the fields of technologic, economic but also environmental feasibility, very few studies manage to evaluate technologies in all three fields. Additionally assessments in high level of detail remain challenging, since many processing parameters are not defined at an early stage of technology. A multidimensional evaluation with short-cut indicators seems to be beneficial to clarify potentials and challenges with proposed CO2 utilization technologies compared to current market benchmarks. In this contribution we first outline the approaches of techno-economic assessments performed in chemistry-related start-ups, gathered by qualitative interviews. Furthermore we analyse current techno-economic assessment approaches in the literature. Based on this evidence we present an integrated approach for rapid and systematic evaluation of chemical CO2 utilization technologies in the three fields of technologic, economic and environmental feasibility. The method leads to recommendations for further catalysis research and process development in the prior domains and facilitates decision making for start-ups, funding agencies and strategic investors. Additionally we show first results of its application in scientific literature of selected CO2 utilization reactions. This contribution is funded by EIT Climate KIC’s project “enabling CO2 reuse” EnCO2re.