Assessing the sustainability of global carbon recycling: towards an interdisciplinary approach

Project C1-36

During the past 15 years, carbon capture and storage (CCS) attracted growing attention as a possible approach to mitigate CO2 emissions and climate change. However, geological sequestration of CO2 has a number of drawbacks (energy cost, risks in case of leakage, etc.) and thus is receives decreasing public acceptance. This project explores an alternative strategy: utilization of CO2, instead of sequestration. The scientific principles of CO2 capture and utilisation are now well established, and this project aims at investigating the various implications of the main technological options for CO2 utilization within the systemic conceptual framework of industrial ecology. Thus, the project will address the technical and non-technical dimensions of CO2 utilization from the perspective of social and human sciences as well.

There are many possible uses of CO2: as a raw material (e.g. for producing polymers and
chemicals) or as a physical agent (e.g. for district heating/cooling systems). Despite a recent interest in the technical aspects of carbon capture and utilization (CCU), non-technical challenges and possible consequences of a large-scale implementation remain to be investigated. An interdisciplinary approach is required, since CCU raises various questions (legal, governance, socio-political, etc.). The project aims at creating a network of researchers from relevant disciplines, in order to develop an integrative and systemic approach of CCU.

The project will follow three steps. First, it will convene researchers from universities in Switzerland working on issues related to CCU. Potentially interested relevant persons from business and industry, also from governmental and non-governmental organizations, will be identified as well. The main event of this first step will be the organization (end of 2015) of a workshop on CCU at the University of Lausanne. Second, we will elaborate a Swiss platform for interdisciplinary research on carbon capture and utilization. The main role of the platform will be to facilitate and stimulate interdisciplinary research on all aspects related to CCU. Third, the identified research gaps will be formulated as a series of research topics, leading to the redaction of publications and to the submission of research proposals to different funding organisations.

Project leader
Prof. Dr. Suren Erkman
University of Lausanne
Faculty of Geosciences and Environment, Industrial Ecology Group

Involved universities
University of Lausanne

Project duration
1.6.2015 - 31.12.2016

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