Opportunities and Limits of CO2 Recycling in a Circular Carbon Economy: Techno-economics, Critical Infrastructure Needs, and Policy Priorities

Lead PI: Julio Friedmann, Amar Bhardwaj, Dr. Colin McCormick

Unit Affiliation: Center on Global Energy Policy (CGEP)

May 2021 - Ongoing
Global ; North America
Project Type: Research Outreach

DESCRIPTION: This report examines 19 CO2 recycling pathways to understand the opportunities and the technical and economic limits of CO2 recycling products gaining market entry and reaching global scale. The pathways studied consume renewable (low-carbon) electricity and use chemical feedstocks derived from electrochemical pathways powered by renewable energy. Across these CO2 recycling pathways, the authors evaluated current globally representative production costs, sensitivities to cost drivers, carbon abatement potential, critical infrastructure and feedstock needs, and the effect of subsidies. Findings include: CO2 recycling pathways could deliver deep emissions reductions; Some CO2 recycling pathways have reached market parity today, while the costs of remaining pathways are high; Catalyst performance and input prices are the main cost drivers; and CO2 recycling at the scale of current global markets would require enormous new capacity of critical infrastructure. Based on these findings, the authors recommend the following set of policy actions: Ensure CO2 recycling pathways are fed by low-carbon inputs; Prioritize certain pathways strategically; Target research, development, and demonstration (RD&D) to catalyst innovation to bring down ECOP and reduce input demand; Create demand pull for early market CO2 recycling products; and promote build-out of critical infrastructure.