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Capture, storage and reuse of CO₂

We are developing a series of systems for capturing carbon dioxide and reusing it to produce innovative fuels and products that reflect the principles of the circular economy.

Technology

We have several ongoing projects relating to CCS - “Carbon Capture and Storage” - and CCU - “Carbon Capture and Utilization” - under the supervision of the Research Centre of San Donato Milanese and the Renewable Energy and Environmental R&D Centre in Novara. With regards to the “Capturing” stage, we are developing systems that use ionic liquids that are more efficient than conventional amine-based liquids. Where “Storage” is concerned, we are using an integrated approach to capture, transport, fluid-to-rock interaction and monitoring studies relating to the geological storage of CO2. The range of technologies we are developing for the “Utilization” stage, meanwhile, is somewhat more complex, with the main projects in this domain relating to microalgae biofixation and the conversion to methanol. Other avenues of research are focusing on ways of using CO2 in the production of polymers (such as polycarbonates) and chemically fixing it in mining residues to produce building materials. One larger-scale project in particular also aims to capture CO2 directly on board vehicles.

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ALBERT#2 - CO₂ as a resource

Context

Capturing CO2 for permanent storage or reusing it in other production cycles is one of the key ways of reducing its concentrations in the atmosphere and limiting the increase in the average global temperature to within two degrees Celsius, as required by the Paris Agreements on climate change. The CCS and CCU technologies are part of our decarbonization strategy, together with the right mix of renewables and natural gas, energy savings generated by increased efficiency and the protection and conservation of forests. Developing the corresponding plants on an industrial scale also has the advantage of generating a virtuous circle through the principles of the circular economy, with positive effects on overall growth and development. One additional benefit would stem from the possibility of using the surplus electricity production typical of generating energy from renewable sources, and from solar and wind power in particular, to power the capturing, storage and reuse of CO2.    

Technological challenge

The main difficulty facing any method of capturing and reusing CO2 is the fact that the carbon dioxide molecule is the most stable of the carbon compounds, meaning that breaking it down or binding it to any other substance always requires a lot of energy. There is no single solution for doing away with this constraint imposed by thermodynamics, but research has been studying those reaction pathways that consume the lowest possible amounts of energy. With this in mind, we are focusing our efforts on ionic fluids - a proprietary technology that makes it possible to intercept CO2 in the atmosphere but with lower emission and energy consumption levels than conventional amine-based methods. We are simultaneously conducting research alongside the MIT with a view to developing high-efficiency electrochemical capture systems. The chemical reduction of CO2 to methanol using hydrogen produced by electrolysing water using renewable electricity is another of the challenges we are facing; indeed, methanol produced in this way can be reused to produce energy or used directly as a component of automotive fuel, thus reducing the carbon footprint of the entire process.

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How to capture and valorize CO2 - Energy Transition | Eni Video Channel

Industrial integration

The CCS and CCU technologies can be used to transform CO2 from a cost into an opportunity, and this is especially true for the energy industry since these processes can be perfectly integrated into our business. With regards to the “storage” aspect, for example, our significant knowledge of deposit dynamics and the immediate availability of decommissioned assets offer major opportunities for intervention. “Capture” systems, on the other hand, can be directly used to reduce the emissions generated by our upstream operations and our production plants, such as Enipower thermoelectric power plants, for example.  In terms of the “Utilization” aspect, meanwhile, there could be excellent opportunities for integration with our operations in the natural gas and sustainable chemistry sectors.

Environmental impact

Whilst they may differ slightly from one another, one thing that all CCS and CCU technologies have in common is their ability to transform a limitation into a resource, creating opportunities for economic growth and environmental sustainability by reducing CO2emissions. Generally speaking, what these systems do is capture the greenhouse gas generated by industry and other forms of human activity or found in the atmosphere and introduce it into a new production cycle that enhances it and adds value. The benefits of this in the case of CCU are twofold, since carbon dioxide then becomes a “raw material” that is used in various virtuous processes pertaining to the circular economy.  Furthermore, these processes can be used to help produce electricity from renewable sources.