Technical University of Denmark: CO2 must be a resource instead of a problem

We already have technologies at our disposal for carbon capture and storage, but the current solutions are too expensive for large-scale use. There is a need to streamline the technologies so that they become economically viable and thus useable on a large scale.

“Denmark has set an ambitious goal to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 70% in 2030. In the green mission-driven partnerships, we will bring together talented people from research institutions and companies who will succeed in further developing and spreading the technology for CO₂ capture, storage or utilization. The missions will bring Denmark closer to our climate goals. And if we succeed, it will give Danish companies a better position and contribute to growth and employment,” says Minister of Higher Education and Science Jesper Petersen.

Therefore, Innovation Fund Denmark is launching a new green research partnership, and the INNO-CCUS partnership is one of a total of four missions aimed at creating the foundation for Denmark’s ambitious climate action in the coming years.

INNO-CCUS is a broadly based partnership with 54 different players. The partners are public and private players, including universities, knowledge institutions, and large and small companies.

CO2 is removed from the atmosphere
The partnership’s vision is to contribute to meeting the climate goals through carbon capture, storage, and utilization. The ambition is to completely abandon fossil carbon resources and achieve the climate goals by shifting the carbon balance in the atmosphere.

The first goal is to achieve carbon neutrality, i.e. to remove the same amount of CO2 from the atmosphere that is emitted. The balance can subsequently be shifted further, so that more CO2 is removed from the atmosphere than is emitted in the long term.

The partnership will achieve this through a number of measures, including strong international collaboration in all stages of the value chain. The focus is on short-term (2025), medium-term (2030), and long-term (2050) solutions, and the partnership expects to be able to deliver the first results that will contribute to carbon emission reductions already in 2025.

“INNO-CCUS has enormous potential to quickly demonstrate a major effect on the goal of significantly reducing carbon emissions. This is—not least—due to the broad circle of partners that the project has managed to assemble. It will contribute to both the development of and research into efficient and sustainable capture methods, while also increasing the possibilities for storage and—not least—possible uses of CO2,” says Anders Eldrup, Chairperson of Innovation Fund Denmark.

Five focus areas cover the entire value chain
There are five areas in which the partnership focuses its actions in the coming years:

1) Chemical carbon capture. Existing technologies are scaled up, made less costly, and are implemented at large carbon manufacturers such as cement factories.

2) Biological carbon capture and storage. Systems are developed to ensure transparent and environmentally sound methods for documenting afforestation. Production of biocoal from biowaste must be improved.

3) Geological carbon storage. Technologies and infrastructure for underground carbon storage are improved.

4) Carbon utilization. Research into new materials which comprise CO2 as raw material.

5) Social and system analysis Analyses of where CCU technologies make the most sense and how the surrounding community responds to them.

With 20 projects in the five areas so far, there is focus on both short-term and long-term solutions that can together reduce carbon emissions most effectively. The partnership creates the necessary synergy and activity across the projects. The partnership expects to continue in the coming decades to ensure continuity.

“It’s our ambition that the partnership will activate players from the entire value chain. It must embrace companies with high carbon emissions, players which develop chemical and biological technologies for carbon capture or storage, as well as companies that handle geological carbon storage, which will be a central solution also in the short term. Finally, we also include partners whose projects need to go through a slightly longer maturation period, and where focus is on utilization of CO2 in a wide range of products in addition to green fuels, which is covered by work in a separate Innomission,” says Morten Stage, Chair of the INNO-CCUS partnership and Head of CCS and Technical Services, TotalEnergies.

Actions needed
Research has been conducted in the area for the past 20 years, and there is consequently already great expertise in the Danish research environments.

This provides a fertile ground for the actions in this area really having a great effect on the future carbon management.

“DTU and GEUS have strong academic environments in carbon capture and storage and can quickly contribute to the high technological ambitions for the development. The Innomission initiative is necessary when we need to develop new technological solutions, examine storage possibilities, and ensure education of the future experts who will continue the work. Fortunately, we are noting a great interest from the students at the universities in improving their competences in this field and thus contribute to meeting this major global societal challenge in the coming years,” says Erling Stenby, Vice Chair of INNO-CCUS and Professor and Head of Department, DTU Chemistry.

If the large investments in making the technologies ready for achieving a 70 per cent reduction in carbon emissions are to be realized, it will also be necessary to take parallel action elsewhere. Both legislation and the economic framework must follow suit if the acceleration of capture, storage, and utilization is to succeed.

The partnership is now launching the first pool of projects and will follow up with a new round in 2023.

INNO-CCUS covers two abbreviations, INNO for Innomission and the international abbreviation CCUS for Carbon Capture Utilization and Storage.