Two research projects focusing on the discovery of new technologies to transform waste CO2 into value-added chemicals have been funded by the Flemish Government. The CATCO2RE project (2.5 million euro) is funded by the Research Foundation Flanders (FWO). The CO2PERATE project (2.6 million euro) is funded by the Agentschap Innoveren en Ondernemen (VLAIO), and supported by Catalisti, the spearhead cluster for chemistry and plastics. This support represents a significant milestone for the development of state-of-the-art expertise in CO2 capture and utilization in Flanders, and is expected to help address the impact of human activities on the environment. Both projects gather a multidisciplinary team of scientists from several Flemish institutions. CATCO2RE is a joint venture between UGent, KULeuven, VUB and VITO, while CO2PERATE is a collaboration between UGent, UAntwerp, KULeuven, VITO, and the Bio Base Europa Pilot Plant. Both projects are coordinated by Ghent University.
The discovery of efficient technologies that enable the use of CO2 as a starting material for chemical synthesis is one of the biggest scientific challenges of our time. It serves the dual purpose of reducing CO2 emissions and producing value added chemicals using CO2 as a building block, thus helping mitigate the effects of climate change while creating new opportunities for the chemical industry.
The specific target of CATCO2RE is to investigate the conversion of CO2 to methane and methanol using solar energy, integrating new developments in the production of solar hydrogen with catalyst design and state-of-the-art separation technologies, allowing for the integrated production of solar fuels. The integrated approach of CATCO2RE aims to significantly reduce operating and capital costs, making new CO2-to-methanol plants not only more economically competitive, but overall more sustainable. Meanwhile, CO2PERATE aims to develop catalytic technologies to convert CO2 into formic acid, using renewable electricity. Formic acid will subsequently be used as building block for the biosynthetic production of value added chemicals, as a building block for the chemical industry, or as a potential carrier for energy storage. The processes developed within CO2PERATE hence provide grid stability and integrate renewable electricity generation with the chemical industry.
With the launch of both research projects, the Flemish government provides a significant boost to establish a technology platform for catalytic CO2 reduction, focusing on all three potential routes for CO2 utilization: (i) CO2-neutral fuels and chemicals, (ii) CO2-based integration between renewable energy-production and chemical industry, and (iii) utilization of CO2 as a cost-effective C1 building block. To evaluate the potential of the different options, a decision support framework will be developed within CO2PERATE to select the best available technology for CO2 utilization within a given techno-economic context. The potentially new business models originating from CO2 utilization within CATCO2RE and CO2PERATE are expected to contribute significantly to economic and sustainable growth in Flanders’ circular economy.