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Published on 5 August 2020


Closing the Carbon Cycle

In 2018, France's CO2 emissions totaled around 310 Mt[1]. These emissions are generated when fossil-based fuels are burned to produce electricity and heat for transportation, homes, and manufacturing industries (chemicals, metals, cement, etc.).

The growing penetration of low-carbon and carbon-free electricity into our energy systems will bring some industries' emissions down over the medium- to long-term. However, for the chemical and certain other industries and some transportation-related applications, high-energy-density requirements will mean continued reliance on carbon-containing substances.

The challenge will be to produce these substances using recyclable or renewable carbon, eliminating the release of additional CO2 into the atmosphere. This is part of a strategy known as closing the carbon cycle. 

These carbon-containing substances can be synthesized from two other complementary sources of carbon:

  • CO2 captured from the air or from industrial stacks. When combined with hydrogen produced by electrolysis, it can then be converted into gas or liquid.
  • Bioresources (agricultural and wood biomass, microalgae, waste) that have absorbed atmospheric CO2 through photosynthesis. These bioresources can be thermo-converted into a syngas rich in H2 and CO, and then synthesized into carbon-containing gases and liquids. To improve carbon yields, hydrogen produced by electrolysis can be added to the syngas.

Liten's research focuses on three technologies that are vital to these conversion chains: 

  • High-temperature electrolysis to produce green hydrogen
  • The development of thermoconversion technologies:

  • ​Hydrothermal liquefaction and supercritical water gasification (SCWG) to convert wet or liquid bioresources into energy.
  • Torrefaction and gasification of low-moisture bioresources into bioproducts and energy.

Liten possesses pilot equipment that is unique in France, positioning the institute to scale these technologies up.

  • Reactors for the catalytic conversion of gas blends (H2+CO2 and H2+CO+CO2) into substances of interest (methane, methanol, olefins, synthetic fuel) for fuel and chemicals.

1 https://www.citepa.org/fr/2019-co2/



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