Biogenic carbon dioxide as feedstock for production of chemicals and fuels: A techno-economic assessment with a European perspective

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The use of fossil resources must be phased out during the next few decades in order to meet the adopted 2° target. The transition to non-fossil feedstocks in the production of chemicals and transportation fuels will make it increasingly important to economise on the biomass carbon since biomass is a limited resource. Carbon dioxide (CO2) can be used as carbon feedstock and thus serve as a valuable complement to biomass. CO2 can be transformed into various chemicals via reaction with hydrogen, which can be produced from electricity and water.
The objectives of this report are to technically and economically assess the opportunities to produce chemicals and fuels based on electricity and biogenic CO2 from different biomass conversion processes in Europe and to identify promising production process routes. The report focuses on the production of methanol and methane, which are widely used in the chemical industry and as fuel.
The total generation of CO2 from the current centralised use of biomass and wastes in Europe is estimated to 395 Mt CO2. Most of this CO2 originates from biomass combustion (287 Mt) and waste incineration (81 Mt) and less from biogas production (23 Mt) and ethanol production (4.4 Mt). The technical potential production of chemicals based on this amount of biogenic CO2 is estimated to 6.2 EJ of methane (about one third of the current use of fossil methane in Europe), assuming all the CO2 is converted into methane, or alternatively to a combination of 4.6 EJ of methanol (about five times the current use of methanol in Europe) and 0.4 EJ of methane. The production is estimated to require 2500-3200 TWh of electricity, depending on transformation product. Hence, the use of biogenic CO2 and electricity increases the potential production of chemicals and fuels from non-fossil resources substantially, but implies an enormous expansion of renewable electricity production in order to supply the required volume of low-carbon electricity.
The main cost driver for CO2 utilisation is the cost of electrolysis, which is largely independent of the biomass conversion process. The cost of electrolysis is dominated by the cost of electricity if the electrolyser is operated with high capacity factor. A low capacity factor makes the capital cost the main cost driver. The cost of CO2 capture is the second most important cost driver for the utilisation of CO2 from biomass combustion and something that makes this route more costly than others. The production cost of methanol from biogenic CO2 in flue gases is calculated to about €780/t methanol in this report when including the main process steps and assuming an electricity price of €50/MWh. The production of methanol from CO2 and electricity can under most circumstances not meet the current market price of methanol, which is set by the production based on natural gas or other fossil feedstocks. The competitiveness of CO2-based methanol and methane is thus largely dependent on the cost relation between electricity and fossil feedstocks. Future technical development of electrolysis and the adoption of climate policies which reduce the cost of electricity in relation to fossil feedstocks would improve the competitiveness of CO2-based chemicals and fuels.
The most promising process routes in the short-term perspective are to utilise CO2 from anaerobic digestion and fermentation for production of methane or methanol. A major strength of these routes is the high technical readiness. Currently, biomass combustion generates the largest volumes of biogenic CO2. The technical readiness is, however, lower for utilising this CO2 than for the previously mentioned options. The large investments required for post CO2 separation or oxyfuel combustion also pose a barrier. Biomass gasification with integrated CO2 utilisation is the most promising option for the medium term assuming biomass gasification can overcome its technical and economic or barriers and reach commercial scale. This route does not require CO2 separation and offers high technical potential since the technology is compatible with most biomass feedstocks.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Engineering and Technology


  • biogenic CO2, CCU, methane, methanol, Europe
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationEnvironmental and Energy System Studies, Lund University
PublisherMiljö- och energisystem, LTH, Lunds universitet
Number of pages47
VolumeIMES/EESS Report No. 103
ISBN (Electronic)978-91-86961-29-9
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Publication categoryResearch

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