Carol Xiao: Is carbon the problem?
Carbon is everywhere in our daily lives, including energy, building materials, food, textiles and chemicals. Currently, we consume 550 megatons(1) of carbon-based materials and energy. Of this, nearly 88% comes from fossil resources and 12% consists of CO2, recycling and bio-carbon sources. Carbon use is expected to double to 1,150 megatons by 2050.

The use of carbon is not the problem, but the drain is the challenge. It is therefore necessary to replace the aforementioned 88% with new carbon sources and associated technologies.

What can we do?

What we need to do anyway is use materials and energy less and more efficiently, and reuse them. Nevertheless, the need for carbon remains very high. So we will recycle much more. But in addition, the large-scale use of non-fossil raw materials as well as the application of Carbon Capture and Utilisation (CCU) technologies are also necessary.

The bigger picture

Within the Institute for Sustainable Process Technology (ISPT), we are convinced that we must first look at the bigger picture and understand the need for carbon. In order to then work with stakeholders to develop a roadmap or scenarios for the transformation to a circular, industrial carbon chain. Four years ago, we launched the ISPT programme Circular Carbon founded and we have since built a strong project portfolio in collaboration with our network.

Collaborating with carbon chain

In the Circular Carbon Programme, we work with partners to accelerate innovation, develop new consortia and realise cheaper and scalable technologies. For example, ISPT supports industry to reduce its CO2-reduction targets.

In the coming years, we will continue to work on gasification routes for syngas production, electrochemical conversion of CO2 and routes based on syngas, such as renewable methanol strategies and pathways. We do this by working with the entire carbon chain.


FutureCarbonNL's ambition is to build a world-leading carbon technology sector in the Netherlands. This is needed to move away from fossil carbon sources and move towards a sustainable and healthy future. In turn, ISPT is working with its Circular Carbon Programme to develop a new carbon chain for energy and materials. These initiatives will reinforce each other and also lead to new connections between the associated networks.

It will be an exciting week. On 30 June, the National Growth Fund Advisory Committee will announce whether FutureCarbonNL will receive funding for its proposal. I sincerely hope so, because a strong carbontech sector contributes to the sustainable earning capacity of the Netherlands. We are ready for it.

Fingers crossed!

Carol Xiao
(Director business development at ISPT)

Footnote 1: Turning off the Tap for Fossil Carbon