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Technology : Carbon capture and usage


Published on 15 December 2023

Objectives: Build a comprehensive, cross-disciplinary picture of synthetic fuel production methods based on electricity. Combining methods (technical, economic, and lifecycle analyses) that are often used separately or in cascade and integrating them into a multicriteria analysis and optimization methodology will provide additional value.

Our current energy mix is 75% fossil-based, and the main consumers are transportation and heat. The source of these sectors' massive GHG emissions is the burning of fossil fuels. The French government's multi-year energy plan and low-carbon energy strategy include reduction—and in some cases, Net Zero—targets. The proposed paths toward these targets are energy sufficiency and  efficiency and a switch to non-fossil energy carriers through electrification.


In some cases, not all new energy technologies will work, either due to technical requirements, the regulatory environment, or the market. Here, conventional technologies will still have to be used. Aviation is one example of an industry where regulatory, technological, and power density requirements all point to internal combustion engines as the sole solution. In industrial processes, fossil fuels will be used to generate heat in cases where carbon is required (such as in the steel industry). We also address these use cases.


We are focusing on the contribution of e-fuels, in the broadest sense of the term, to the energy mix. These fuels are produced by chemical synthesis from renewable or recycled carbon. All or part of the energy required for the production process comes from electricity to produce electrolytic hydrogen as an additional compound in synthesis. This family of fuels contributes to closing the rapid carbon cycle, using CO2 and biomass as sources of carbon and decarbonized electricity and biomass as a source of energy.


At I-Tésé, we analyze carbon systems and ways of closing the carbon cycle: 

  • Carbon capture from sources responsible for massive emissions (heavy industry, central boilers).
  • Biomass sourcing and transformation for the production of chemical intermediates in the form of syngases (CO, H2, CH4, CO2).
  • Transformation of CO2 and syngas into synthetic fuels with electricity used on a massive scale in production.


Our 2023 research program was designed to support advances in four main areas:


  • Identify and estimate the sizes of different sources of carbon (in heavy industry, especially) with time horizons of 2035 and 2050 based on the government's multi-year energy plans.
  • Gather performance data on technologies developed at the CEA; carry out a detailed analysis of different process steps; and capitalize on the results.
  • Complete technical, market (current and future depending on penetration, etc.), and economic analyses of different mixes of and synergies between electricity and carbon in order to refine the CEA's position.
  • Recommend a set of technologies capable of achieving a lower-carbon energy mix.

For 2022—2024, I-Tésé is focusing on one topic (mobility) and one method (multicriteria analysis).


1.       We will compare the replacement of fossil-based energy with low-carbon energy (nuclear, renewables) in mobility use cases. The electrification of vehicle fleets is already underway. However, carbon remains a vital energy vector for some use cases (long-haul trucking, maritime, aviation) for which there is no alternative to conventional fuels. A deeper understanding of e-fuel production processes is crucial here. The subject of our research has to be a system that uses recycled or renewable carbon (CO2, biomass) and decarbonized electricity (nuclear, photovoltaic, hydroelectric, wind) and that enables hydrogen to be produced as an intermediate. Mobility research in the social sciences and humanities will inform our analyses.

2.      In terms of methods, we will focus on multicriteria analysis. “Mobility" is a complex, multi-variable system subject to numerous constraints. In addition, a variety of assessment criteria are used to cover the technical (yields, consumption), economic (production cost, value analysis, system cost, markets), and environmental (emissions, consumption of materials) aspects of the system. And yet, the system is equal to much more than the sum of its parts. There are also interactions within the system itself that must be factored into any analysis. Multicriteria analysis and optimization software can model and analyze this type of complex system and generate actionable results. This applies to system specifications as much as it does to decision assistance. ​


 Contact : Guillaume Boissonnet