New opportunities to use carbon dioxide (CO2) in the development of products and services are capturing the attention of governments, industry and the investment community. Climate change mitigation is the primary driver for this increased interest, but other factors include technology leadership and supporting a circular economy. This analysis considers the near-term market potential for five key categories of CO2-derived products and services: fuels, chemicals, building materials from minerals, building materials from waste, and CO2 use to enhance the yields of biological processes.
While some technologies are still at an early stage of development, all five categories could individually be scaled-up to a market size of at least 10 MtCO2/yr – almost as much as the current CO2 demand for food and beverages – but most face commercial and regulatory barriers. CO2 use can support climate goals where the application is scalable, uses low-carbon energy and displaces a product with higher life-cycle emissions. Some CO2-derived products also involve permanent carbon retention, in particular building materials. A better understanding and improved methodology to quantify the life-cycle climate benefits of CO2 use applications are needed.
The market for CO2 use is expected to remain relatively small in the short term, but early opportunities could be developed, especially those related to building materials. Public procurement of low-carbon products can help to create an early market for CO2-derived products and assist in the development of technical standards. In the long term, CO2 sourced from biomass or the air could play a key role in a net-zero CO2 emission economy, including as a carbon source for aviation fuels and chemicals.
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