Reusing the major greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) from industrial plants—rather than releasing its warming potential into the environment—is on the verge of becoming a commercial reality. Several large chemical companies in Germany and small start-ups in the U.S. are leading the way, according to an article in Chemical & Engineering News, the weekly newsmagazine of the American Chemical Society.
Alex Scott, C&EN's senior editor for Europe, points out that German firms are at the forefront thanks partly to an infusion of cash from the government encouraging academic-industrial collaborations to develop CO2-based processes. Within the next few years, chemical giants including BASF and Bayer expect to roll out new processes to use waste CO2 to make plastics, additives, fuels and other materials in an energy-efficient and cost-effective way.
The article notes that unlike their established counterparts across the Atlantic, the U.S. pioneers in this burgeoning sector are start-ups. Illinois-based LanzaTech is developing a process to convert CO2 back into useful chemicals such as acetic acid, an important substance used in industrial processes. Novomer, based in Massachusetts, plans to commercialize its products, including a raw material for plastics, as early as next year.
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