Conclusions

The industrial utilization of CO2 can contribute to reducing global CO2 emissions, provided that the CO2-based innovative technologies are more energy- and carbon-efficient than existing ones. This requires the development of more direct syntheses, with high selectivity and conversion yields. With the exception of polymers, the products derived from CO2 will not have a 'storage' capacity, if used. The amount of 'avoided' CO2 can be estimated using the LCA methodology. The implementation of all possible technologies based on CO2 (synthetic and other uses) discussed here may allow a reduction in emissions of 250300 Tg CO2/year in the medium term.

A large potential for reducing CO2 exists in photochemical processes if solar energy is used for CO2 reduction and water oxidation. In such a case, the amount of recycled carbon would be well beyond the actual estimate (just 7%) of the potential for carbon recovery in this way (IEA, 1990).

The most promising applications appear to be: the production of organic carbonates, carbamates, isocyanates, polymers (polycarbonates and polyurethans), carboxylates and methanol (CO2 as additive to CO); the use as mild oxidant; and the use as technological fluid (the use in air conditioners may be a new important application).

The development of such new technologies may, directly or indirectly, reduce the amount of CO2 released to the atmosphere, while further benefits (security, health) may come from the substitution of toxic compounds currently used in the chemical industry and other applications (fluids in refrigeration apparatus).

The amount of avoided CO2 may not represent a large share of the reduction required at the world level, but it is important to note that it will also allow a reduction in fossil fuel extraction. The exploitation of the utilization option will generate a profit that may also pay for other disposal options.

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