A new report from the CSIRO says that Australia could turn carbon dioxide waste into a valuable revenue stream.

The CO2 Utilisation Roadmap explores using emerging carbon capture and utilisation (CCU) technologies in the food and beverage industry, in the creation of zero or low carbon building products and materials, and which could position Australia for the export of low emissions chemicals and fuels.

“No single technology will take us to net zero – the scale of our challenge in adapting to climate change and decarbonising our industries requires us to draw on every available tool,” CSIRO chief executive Dr Larry Marshall said.

“The development and demonstration of high abatement technologies like CCU has the potential to have a significant impact, as part of our broader efforts to both reduce emissions and lift the competitiveness of our industries.”

Capturing COfrom industrial waste streams

The CSIRO said industries like cement, steel, plastics and heavy transport still rely on fossil fuels or have inherent emissions in their processes and are traditionally ‘hard to abate.’
They also account for about a sixth of Australia’s emissions and around a third of global emissions.

Essentially, CCU technologies could capture the COfrom the waste streams of these industrial processes (or directly from the atmosphere), and convert it into useful new products such as synthetic fuels to food and beverages, chemicals, and building materials.

Complements hydrogen and emissions reduction research

The idea is to transition Australia towards a lower emissions future while creating economic growth – and hydrogen plays a key role.

The report says that, by acting as a potential major user of hydrogen and helping to reduce CO2 emissions, CCU complements CSIRO’s investment in Australia’s hydrogen and emissions reduction research through the hydrogen industry and towards net zero emissions missions.

“Our analysis shows that Australia is well positioned to capitalise on the CCU opportunity and become a leader in this emerging area,” CSIRO Futures associate director Vivek Srinivasan said.

“Australia’s advantages include capacity to implement the low-cost, low-emission electricity needed for CCU technologies, a track record for developing internationally competitive export industries, and established international bilateral agreements on low emissions technologies.”