IDTechEx | July 06, 2022
One of the major environmental issues facing the planet is the rising levels of plastic consumption and waste. According to a recent OECD study, the world produced 460 million tonnes (Mt) of plastics in 2019 and consumption will continue to rise despite an expected increase in recycling technologies deployment.
As carbon dioxide emissions also soar, the emerging carbon capture and utilization industry propose a solution for both issues: creating lower-carbon, degradable polymers using CO2 emissions as the feedstock. The recent IDTechEx report "Carbon Dioxide Utilization 2022-2042: Technologies, Market Forecasts, and Players" analyzes the opportunities and challenges of creating this proposed circular carbon economy.
How to make polymers from CO2?
There are at least three major pathways to convert CO2 into polymers: electrochemistry, biological conversion, and thermocatalysis. The latter is the most mature CO2 utilization technology, where CO2 can either be utilized directly to yield CO2-based polymers, most notably biodegradable linear-chain polycarbonates (LPCs), or indirectly, through the production of chemical precursors (building blocks such as methanol, ethanol, acrylate derivatives, or mono-ethylene glycol [MEG]) for polymerization reactions.
LPCs made from CO2 include polypropylene carbonate polyethylene carbonate and polyurethanes PUR being a major market for CO2-based polymers, with applications in electronics, mulch films, foams, and in the biomedical and healthcare sectors. CO2 can comprise up to 50% (in weight) of a polyol, one of the main components in PUR. CO2-derived polyols are made by combining CO2 with cyclic ethers The polyol is then combined with an isocyanate component to make PUR.
Companies such as Econic, Covestro, and Aramco Performance Materials have developed novel catalysts to facilitate CO2-based polyol manufacturing. Fossil inputs are still necessary through this thermochemical pathway, but manufacturers can replace part of it with waste CO2, potentially saving on raw material costs.
In the realm of emerging technologies, chemical precursors for CO2-based polymers can be obtained through electrochemistry or microbial synthesis. Although electrochemical conversion of CO2 into chemicals is at an earlier stage of development, biological pathways are more mature, having reached the early-commercialization stage. Recent advances in genetic engineering and process optimization have led to the use of chemoautotrophic microorganisms in synthetic biological routes to convert CO2 into chemicals, fuels, and even proteins.
Unlike thermochemical synthesis, these biological pathways generally use conditions approaching ambient temperature and pressure, with the potential to be less energy-intensive and costly at scale. Notably, the California-based start-up Newlight is bringing into market a direct biological route to polymers, where its microbe turns captured CO2, air, and methane into polyhydroxybutyrate (PHB), an enzymatically degradable polymer.
Currently, the scale of CO2-based polymer manufacturing is still minor compared to the incumbent petrochemical industry, but there are already successful commercial examples. One of the largest volumes available is aromatic polycarbonates (PC) made from CO2, being developed by Asahi Kasei in Taiwan since 2012. More recently, the US-based company LanzaTech has successfully established partnerships with major brands such as Unilever, L'Oréal, On, Danone, Zara, and Lulumelon to use microbes to convert captured carbon emissions from industrial processes into polymer precursors – ethanol and MEG – for manufacturing of packaging items, shoes, and textiles.
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Waters Corporation | July 27, 2022
Waters Corporation announced it is providing both technology and expertise to help advance plant-based protein science in collaboration with researchers of the Plant Protein Innovation Center at the University of Minnesota. Waters scientists will work with PPIC researchers to develop a workflow for measuring the amino acid content of plant-based proteins using a Waters ACQUITY™ Premier UPLC System. Waters is the first analytical instrument company to become a member of the PPIC, an industry-leading interdisciplinary research center dedicated to studying plant and alternative proteins.
According to a July 2022 report by Boston Consulting Group, animal agriculture is the largest global greenhouse gas emitter within the food system and accounts for 15% of global emissions. If alternative proteins stay on track to match the taste, texture and price of conventional animal proteins, researchers estimate they will account for an 11% share of the food market by 2035 and account for a reduction in CO2 emissions equal to 95% of today’s aviation industry emissions.i
“Just as climate change and population growth are driving demand for alternatives to animal protein, changing consumer tastes are also creating a preference for healthy and more sustainable dietary options to meet their future needs and wants. Waters is proud to be the first analytical instrument company to join PPIC in its pursuit of alternative sources of proteins while addressing the issues of climate change and food security.”
Warren Potts, Senior Director, Global Food and Environmental Business, Waters Corporation
“As we translate research to reality through developing and introducing novel and sustainable plant protein ingredients and products with acceptable functionality and nutrition, we rely heavily on robust and accurate analytical tools,” said Dr. B. Pam Ismail, Founder and Director of the PPIC. “PPIC and its member organizations are, therefore, thrilled to partner with Waters to advance our analytical capabilities for the alternative protein market.”
Liquid Chromatography is Essential for Amino Acid Analysis
Proteins are made up of 20 chemical ‘building blocks’ called amino acids. The amino acids we make ourselves or that we take in with food, link together in different combinations to make new proteins that help build and repair muscles, tendons, and organs. While humans produce 11 of these amino acids, the remaining nine amino acids are essential for human health and are derived only from plant or animal sources.
Amino acid analysis provides a basic measure of the functional and nutritional value of both animal- and plant-based proteins slated for consumer food products. Any research into plant-based proteins requires a way to measure their amino acid content, for which liquid chromatography is particularly well-suited.
About Waters Corporation
Waters Corporation a global leader in analytical instruments and software, has pioneered chromatography, mass spectrometry, and thermal analysis innovations serving the life, materials, and food sciences for more than 60 years. With more than 7,800 employees worldwide, Waters operates directly in more than 35 countries, including 14 manufacturing facilities, and with products available in more than 100 countries.
Ricardo | July 12, 2022
As part of its mission to support the decarbonisation of the global energy sector, Ricardo, a world-class, strategic environmental and engineering consulting company, has received 3million GBP from the UK Government to design, install and operate a combined heat and power demonstrator plant with a carbon negative footprint which will showcase climate repairing technology. The plant will demonstrate the effectiveness of community scale greenhouse gas removal and clean energy using sustainably-sourced forestry waste. The funding is awarded through the Net Zero Innovation Portfolio under the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
Ricardo is leading the consortium delivering the demonstrator plant. The consortium combines an innovative carbon capture system developed by Ricardo with the hot air turbine technology from Bluebox Energy and pyrolysis technology from Woodtek Engineering. The quarter-sized demonstrator plant, which will be located at Holmsted Farm in West Sussex in the UK, will be commissioned and operational in 2023. It will demonstrate not only a highly innovative greenhouse gas removal technology, that in the full-size system can generate renewable heat and electricity for up to 300 local homes and businesses, but also a realistic carbon negative technology that can significantly contribute to net zero targets.
“Ricardo is a trusted advisor to governments around the world on climate change policy and the transition to clean energy, and is also well known for its mission to decarbonise the global transport and energy sectors. In partnership with Bluebox Energy and Woodtek Engineering, this project will demonstrate that our innovative and integrated carbon capture system can be used to benefit local communities, bolster the UK’s reputation as a pioneer in negative emission technologies, and provide a sustainable and commercially viable pathway to net-zero while also delivering national energy security.”
Tim Curtis, Managing Director, Ricardo Energy and Environment
Ricardo’s project is one of several across the UK which will benefit from a share of over 54 million GBP to develop technologies that remove carbon emissions from the atmosphere. Announcing this investment, UK Government’s Energy and Climate Change Minister Greg Hands said: “This 54 million GBP government investment will help establish a greenhouse gas removal industry in the UK, which could be worth billions to our economy, bringing in private investment and supporting the creation of new green jobs.”
The technology works by taking sustainably sourced waste wood from domestic timber production and then processing it in three ways: producing biochar (a product similar to charcoal); generating heat and power; and capturing carbon dioxide from the exhaust. The technology, therefore, captures around 95% of the carbon content in the wood. It also produces commercially marketable carbon products: the biochar can be used by farmers to enrich soil and add to animal feed to reduce ruminant emissions. The industrial-grade carbon dioxide can either be used for making low-carbon concrete or in the food and drinks industry to replace carbon dioxide derived from industrial processes which rely on imported natural gas. A full-size system will remove 16,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year from the atmosphere.
Ricardo has been collaborating with Bluebox Energy since June 2020 to deliver innovative technologies that support the transition to a low carbon future. This project is a further boost to Ricardo’s credentials in tackling climate change and meeting national net zero targets. Ricardo is currently actively supporting clients in Europe in innovative carbon capture technologies and has advised the UK Government on the potential of bioenergy with carbon capture in the UK. Ricardo supports clients across a wide range of industries develop their industrial decarbonisation plans on the route to net zero.
Ricardo plc is a world-class strategic, environmental, and engineering consulting company, listed on the London Stock Exchange. With over 100 years of engineering excellence and employing close to 3,000 employees in more than 20 countries, we provide exceptional levels of expertise in delivering leading-edge and innovative cross-sector sustainable products and solutions. Every day, we enable our customers to solve the most complex and dynamic challenges to help achieve a safe and sustainable world.
Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy
This funding has been made available from the government’s £1 billion Net Zero Innovation Portfolio, which looks to accelerate the commercialisation of low-carbon technologies and systems, through its Direct Air Capture and Greenhouse Gas Removal Innovation Competition. This competition will provide funding for developing technologies that enable the removal of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere in the UK.
EnergySource Minerals | September 15, 2022
EnergySource Minerals announced that its proprietary ILiAD ™ lithium brine technology platform has been selected as the technology provider for Compass Minerals a leading global provider of essential minerals. The technology was chosen for its superiority in lithium recovery, magnesium rejection, minimized environmental impact and commercial readiness.
EnergySource's ILiAD platform technology has been selected for use on phase one of Compass Minerals' 2.4 mMT lithium carbonate equivalent resource on the Great Salt Lake in Utah. Phase one of development is expected to be located on the east side of the Great Salt Lake where a significant portion of the company's existing infrastructure is located.
"Our selection of ESM is the result of a comprehensive, competitive process, and we are excited to forge ahead on our lithium development with their team as a trusted provider. Our multi-year assessment was focused on matching the right technology with our specific lithium brine resource – and we are confident we've done just that with this provider selection."
Chris Yandell, head of lithium for Compass Minerals
Following three years of extensive research and piloting of multiple DLE technologies and providers, Compass Minerals' analysis showed EnergySource Minerals' proprietary ILiAD adsorption technology proved to be the most successful in processing Compass Minerals' brine resource across four key combined assessment categories: lithium recovery; magnesium rejection; minimized environmental impact; and commercial readiness.
"Compass Minerals has done extensive due diligence as it works to join the domestic battery metals supply chain to help meet the US automotive industry's need for clean and sustainable lithium," noted Eric Spomer, CEO of EnergySource Minerals. "We look forward to producing with the Compass Minerals team and supporting their operations as they enter the market with a cost-competitive, battery-grade lithium product by 2025."
"While we are happy with the results of our partners' research and pilot testing, we are not surprised by the outcome. It confirms the commercial viability of ILiAD's lithium extraction technology. Through our own extensive testing program on a range of brines from around the world, we have seen ILiAD deliver outstanding results across the full range of lithium-bearing brines. Our approach leverages over 40 plus years of industry leadership within our team," added Spomer. "We are thrilled to see ILiAD get its footing in world-wide operations and applications."
EnergySource Minerals developed the ILiAD technology for its lithium extraction operation at the John L. Featherstone Geothermal Power Plant in the Salton Sea, currently under development. The platform maximizes lithium extraction from brines in a closed-loop environment, delivering significant reduction in time, cost, and environmental impact compared with alternative methods.
ILiAD is considered best-in-class among direct lithium extraction technologies and is commercially ready and being deployed today. The technology dramatically reduces the water footprint of operations, does not consume reagents, demonstrates order-of-magnitude longer operating life and the highest lithium recovery rates. EnergySouce Minerals has tested the technology platform on a variety of brines and is ready to be rapidly deployed at a global scale.
"As the world transitions to a clean energy economy, lithium demand is increasing dramatically," said Dr. David Deak, of EnergySouce Minerals. "Currently, lithium extraction has a high environmental cost, and is produced from a limited range of geographies. A technology change is required to enable a broader, more sustainable resource base. ILiAD is that technology."
About EnergySource Minerals
EnergySource Minerals is a privately held company leading the development of Project ATLiS—a premier lithium project located in Imperial County, California, United States—as well as the ILiAD technology platform, which is being developed and deployed to lithium operations worldwide. Schlumberger New Energy and TechMet Ltd. have equity interest in EnergySource Minerals.
About Compass Minerals
Compass Minerals is a leading global provider of essential minerals focused on safely delivering where and when it matters to help solve nature's challenges for customers and communities. The company's salt products help keep roadways safe during winter weather and are used in numerous other consumer, industrial, chemical and agricultural applications. Its plant nutrition products help improve the quality and yield of crops, while supporting sustainable agriculture. Additionally, the company is pursuing development of a sustainable lithium brine resource to support the North American battery market and is a minority owner of Fortress North America, a next-generation fire retardant company. Compass Minerals operates 12 production and packaging facilities with nearly 2,000 employees throughout the U.S., Canada and the U.K.