EXPRESS #3 - August 14, 2018
Removing carbon dioxide from the air and turning it into useful products is the long-term goal of a new initiative at the University of Michigan (U-M).
The Global CO2 Initiative aims to reduce the equivalent of no less than 10 percent of current atmospheric carbon dioxide emissions annually by 2030, it says in a press release. “That’s roughly 4 gigatons that could potentially be converted into concrete and other construction materials, fuels, and carbon fiber for use in lightweight vehicles and fabrics, for example.”
“Our vision is to transform the liability of carbon dioxide emissions into an economic opportunity,” said Volker Sick, associate vice president for research of natural sciences and engineering at the University of Michigan and Global CO2 Initiative lead. “We believe innovations in carbon dioxide removal and utilization technologies can generate a carbon-negative, dollar-positive effect that will reduce emission footprints while generating billions of dollars of economic activity in the decades ahead.”
The Global CO2 Initiative combines the assets of the San Francisco non-profit CO2 Sciences with what was previously the Beyond Carbon Neutral initiative at the U-M Energy Institute. U-M is creating an infrastructure to support researchers through technology assessment, development and commercialization of CO2-based products. The initiative’s primary strategy is to drive the development of technologies that can capture and convert carbon dioxide into a commodity—providing commercial incentives to lower the concentration in the atmosphere.
As a first step, the initiative will deploy, for free download, a first-of-its-kind toolkit that establishes a common model for assessing the climate and economic impacts of different technologies in the carbon conversion industry, as well as of CO2-based products themselves. “The Life Cycle Analysis and Techno-Economic Analysis Toolkit, abbreviated LCA/TEA, is the only internationally developed system of its kind”, notes the press release.
XPRIZE will use the toolkit to help select the winner of the NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE, a $20 million incentive prize competition driving breakthrough technology innovation and commercialization in CO2 conversion. The winning team will convert the most CO2 emissions into products with the highest value, and this toolkit will help to assess life cycle emissions of these solutions.
The toolkit is designed to help researchers and industry evaluate which carbon removal approaches or carbon-based products are most promising. Similar tools were instrumental in the ‘90s as R&D for advanced electric vehicle batteries scaled up.
There is also a connection with European institutes: initial research partners for the toolkit include the Technical University of Berlin, the University of Sheffield, RWTH Aachen and the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies in Potsdam. U-M is continuing to expand funding commitments and research partners for this initiative.