BLOG Peter Remco Vellinga: Sweet spots
If we want to 'get rid' of fossil, we must henceforth make our products from recycled carbon, biobased carbon or carbon from CO2. FutureCarbonNL is betting on the third route: Carbon Capture and Utilisation (CCU). Besides developing new technologies to convert CO2 into new chemical building blocks, there are many other challenges ahead to make CCU a success. An active platform like FutureCarbonNL is needed to identify the sweet spots.

Let's start at the origin of CO2/CO. This can vary quite a lot. Sometimes you are dealing with diluted CO2, for example in waste incinerator flue gases, sometimes with reasonably pure streams of CO2 from biogas production, or CO and hydrogen mixtures from gasification. So carbon is not just carbon.

We do not currently know what the winning technologies are for CCU. Therefore, FutureCarbonNL is broadly committed to the development of different pathways and processes that can produce CO2 and convert CO into new, sustainable materials, fuels and (animal) food. Initially, we focus on biological, electro/photochemical, thermocatalytic conversion technologies and integrated capture and conversion.

In addition, we need to close cycles. That means collaborations with new partners and sectors, in different roles. Each of us has to adapt and change in the process. We will have to immerse ourselves in the culture, decision-making processes, risk appetite and speed of the new partners.

Companies themselves, such as BASF, are also looking at how and where CCU fits within the strategy. What is the place of CCU compared to other opportunities for CO2-reduction, where does it fit on the timeline and under what conditions are investments in CCU profitable and sustainable? The decision to invest in (large-scale) deployment of CCU thus often ultimately depends on a (fortunate) confluence of the right circumstances and preconditions.

The big question is where those sweet spots for local demonstration of CCU technology, which FutureCarbonNL is pursuing, are going to emerge. All the puzzle pieces need to fall into place: a company that has emissions and wants to reduce them, a technology provider ready to demonstrate its technology, a main product with an attractive market and by-products that fill a need locally. Not to mention green power availability, connection capacity, subsidy availability, nitrogen space, and so on.

This is why building a multidisciplinary CCU community is so important. For insight and overview of all initiatives and plans. I am proud that FutureCarbonNL has brought together so many different parties from the chain. And we will continue to do so! Because besides technological development, parties must be able to find each other and the 'sweet spots' must surface to make FutureCarbonNL a success. Would you like to join this too? Then sign up!

Peter Remco Vellinga
Senior Sustainability Manager Benelux BASF