Turning carbon dioxide into cash

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Scientists from round the world are meeting in Germany to improve ways of making money from carbon dioxide.

They want to transform some of the CO2 that’s overheating the planet into products to benefit humanity.

They don’t claim the technology will solve climate change, but they say it will help. 

Carbon dioxide is already being used in novel ways to create fuels, polymers, fertilisers, proteins, foams and building blocks.

Until recently, it was assumed that energy-intensive firms burning gas to fuel their processes would need eventually to capture the resulting carbon emissions and bury them underground.

This option is inefficient and costly, so the prospect of utilising some of the CO2 as a valuable raw material is exciting for business.

Katy Armstrong, manager of the Carbon Utilisation Centre at Sheffield University, put it this way: “We need products for the way we live – and everything we do has an impact.

“We need to manufacture our products without increasing CO2 emissions, and if we can use waste CO2 to help make them, so much the better.”

Many of the young carbon usage firms are actually carbon-negative: that means they take in more CO2 than they put out.

We visited three pioneering businesses in the UK which are already making money out of CO2. 

Here are their recipes for success (or at least, the ones they will share with us).

Recipe: Put cow dung and maize into a bio-digester, where bacteria break them down and produce biogas to heat our homes.

Mix the left-over sludge with nutrient-rich wastes from the fertiliser industry, sewage plants, farms or the food industry.

Pump in CO2, which helps the nutrients bind to the sludge.

Product: High-grade fertiliser pellets that have soaked up more CO2 than they produced. The technology has already won export orders. 

CO2 to beer bubbles: Strutt and Parker Farms, Suffolk

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