Consequential life cycle assessment of carbon capture and utilization technologies within the chemical industry
Carbon capture and utilization is a promising approach to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and fossil resource depletion in the chemical industry. However, since carbon capture and utilization is an energy and material intensive process, it is unclear whether it allows for a net reduction of environmental impacts from a life cycle perspective. Previous life cycle assessment studies on carbon capture and utilization focused on the production of one specific chemical or the comparison of C1 basic chemicals and applied an attributional approach. This study assesses twelve CO2-conversion technologies to provide decision support on the potential life-cycle environmental impacts of each technology. Consequential life cycle assessment was chosen as the modeling approach to better understand the system-wide environmental consequences of introducing carbon capture and utilization technologies in the chemical industry. This study has identified that in a near- and a long-term scenario the global warming impact for all CO2 conversions technologies, besides dimethoxymethane, electrochemically produced formic acid, and Fischer–Tropsch production, is negative. Formic acid produced via hydrogenation and polyol production are the conversion technologies with the highest potential for reducing the global warming impact from a life cycle perspective. Holistically polyol production is the conversion technology with the highest potential for reducing environmental impacts. In general, it seems recommendable to introduce carbon capture and utilization within the chemical industry from an environmental perspective.