Transitioning to a low-carbon energy system

The pace of development in battery technology for EV and plug-in hybrids has not changed the fundamental fact that large segments of transport will remain “difficult to electrify” and will, to meet the required reduction of CO2 emissions, demand an increased supply of sustainably produced liquid fuel. Overcoming this challenge is pivotal for mankind’s progress beyond its dependency on fossil fuels but also represents an important opportunity for producers of sustainable liquid fuels.  

Carbon Recycling International (CRI) has pioneered the development of process technology to recycle CO2 into alcohols and liquid hydrocarbons. CRI operates the world’s first facility of its kind in Iceland which produces renewable methanol, a source of fuels and chemicals, from CO2 and H2 alone. This technology has the potential to replace hundreds of millions of tons of fossil fuel and reduce emissions of CO2 by billions of tons per year.

CRI’s patented Emissions-to-Liquids technology (ETL) only needs water and electricity from renewable sources to operate. CO2 can come from any industrial point source or in the future from ambient air. A CRI ETL plant mimics photosynthesis at industrial scale. Fuel from this process replaces fossil fuel and has the same impact as use of renewable electricity from a battery. ETL chemicals, also offset the use of fossil fuels and lock in CO2 for decades or permanently.

The recent IPCC report highlights that time for decisive action is running out, we need to implement solutions for carbon-free transport and industry. The level of anthropogenic emissions will have to peak within the next decade. The further this peaking and subsequent trajectory towards negative emissions is delayed, the faster the emissions will have to be reduced in the future to avoid catastrophic consequences. Slower progress in the near term would therefore lead to much higher cost within a few decades, with rapid adjustment and costly abatement technologies coupled with increased risk of catastrophic climate impacts.

Fortunately, increased emphasis on sustainability across industries has sparked important global collaborations such as Below 50, which has the sole objective of expanding the use of sustainable fuels. Such platforms are essential as no single entity can stand alone in solving the environmental challenges of today and only together can we truly achieve a transition to a low-carbon energy system.