Rock ‘n’ use of CO2: carbon footprint of carbon capture and utilization by mineralization†
A recent approach to reduce the carbon footprint of industries with process-inherent CO2 emissions is CO2 mineralization. Mineralization stores CO2 by converting it into a thermodynamically stable solid. Beyond storing CO2, the products of CO2 mineralization can potentially substitute conventional products in several industries. Substituting conventional production increases both the economic and the environmental potential of carbon capture and utilization (CCU) by mineralization. The promising potential of CO2 mineralization is, however, challenged by the high energy demand required to overcome the slow reaction kinetics. To provide a sound assessment of the climate impacts of CCU by mineralization, we determine the carbon footprint of CCU by mineralization based on life cycle assessment. For this purpose, we analyze 7 pathways proposed in literature: 5 direct and 2 indirect mineralization pathways, considering serpentine, olivine, and steel slag as feedstock. The mineralization products are employed to partially substitute cement in blended cement. Our results show that all considered CCU technologies for mineralization could reduce climate impacts over the entire life cycle based on the current state-of-the-art and today's energy mix. Reductions range from 0.44 to 1.17 ton CO2e per ton CO2 stored. To estimate an upper bound on the potential of CCU by mineralization, we consider an ideal-mineralization scenario that neglects all process inefficiencies and utilizes the entire product. For this ideal mineralization, mineralization of 1 ton CO2 could even avoid up to 3.2 times more greenhouse gas emissions than only storing CO2. For all mineralization pathways, the carbon footprint is mainly reduced due to the permanent storage of CO2 and the credit for substituting conventional products. Thus, developing suitable products is critical to realize the potential benefits in practice. Then, carbon capture and utilization by mineralization could provide a promising route for climate change mitigation.