Carbon will still be needed in the future – how can it be recycled?

Teemu Turunen


Teemu Turunen
Phil. Lic. (Env. Science)

Carbon dioxide is a so-called greenhouse gas that adversely affects global warming. At the same time, the production capacity of carbon dioxide-based products is expected to at least quadruple by 2030. This means that carbon will continue to be needed, but it must be captured or cycled through processes using various technologies.

To promote the green transition, we are now strongly investing in the production of green hydrogen to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. However, it is important to note that processes utilizing hydrogen also require carbon dioxide. In addition to that, hydrogen has direct applications in industries such as food production, as well as in greenhouses, firefighting, and welding. In the future, carbon dioxide can also be used as a hardening agent in concrete, reducing the need for cement produced through carbon-intensive processes.

So, the goal is not to completely end carbon usage, but to either capture it long-term or cycle it through processes. Instead, our energy usage must no longer be linked to coal; we need to utilize renewable energy sources such as wind, solar, and water.

How can carbon dioxide be captured?

Carbon dioxide needs to be captured from sources like boiler flue gases, industrial furnaces, biogas plants, and in the future, directly from the atmosphere. This requires technologies for both carbon capture and utilization (CCU) and carbon storage (CCS). These technologies are already available in the market, but ongoing development is needed to enhance the processes and make the applications more commercially viable.

Many operators aim to utilize carbon dioxide from green sources. However, any form of carbon dioxide capture and utilization benefits the atmosphere.

New and old technologies for carbon recycling

An interesting technological application to promote new carbon cycling involves producing solid carbon by breaking down methane molecules from soil and biogas using TCD technology. The resulting carbon is suitable for specific needs in industries like battery production. This process also generates hydrogen, which consumes significantly less electricity than traditional water electrolysis.

Another long-standing technology is pyrolysis. It can transform carbon compounds from fossil-based waste or biomass into oil for reuse as fuel or further processing.

We should not forget our carbon sinks

In addition to the mentioned technical carbon sinks, we must consider actions in the forestry sector as plants naturally sequester carbon dioxide. It is increasingly important to consider how we manage our natural carbon sinks. We should focus on land-use sector actions, but eventually, we will have to carefully consider how and where we utilize our forests and other biomass.

Natural fibers will face growing competition and using them for energy production will become more challenging. In the future, we won’t only harness cellulose from fibers, but also important materials like hemicellulose and lignin for industrial use. Lignin could serve as a substitute for graphite in industries like battery production, thus replacing traditional manufacturing methods.

The ongoing transition must be seen as an opportunity

As we can see, our goal for a more sustainable future requires comprehensive examination and collaboration at all levels of society. Political ambition is crucial to align with the EU’s sustainability targets, but various stakeholders must also change their mindset. Due to the urgency of climate action, all measures are needed.

We must be willing to collaborate with various parties, as supply chains will reorganize in new ways – the control might not lie solely with individual actors, but rather consortiums or networks of multiple companies. Viewing things holistically can lead to economic viability, exemplified by carbon capture from power plant flue gases. This not only facilitates methane and hydrogen production for industries or heavy transport but also enables the utilization of waste heat for district heating.

Finland possesses broad technological expertise that can be leveraged to address global challenges. Carbon capture, utilization, and storage, along with other clean hydrogen technologies, are crucial means by which we can achieve our climate goals. In doing so, we also enhance our national competitiveness.

Elomatic Voices
Teemu Turunen

Our employees are the key to our success, and we treat them with respect. Hear from those who know it best – here is one of the stories from Teemu Turunen, currently working as Business Development Director at Elomatic.

Note: video is in Finnish

Hydrogen alone will not solve the green transition – the possibilities of carbon dioxide should be considered as well 

Currently, there is a lot of talk about Finland’s opportunities in terms of the green transition. In particular, the potential of the hydrogen economy and related industrial-scale projects have been prominently highlighted. A lot is counting on hydrogen, but it alone will not solve the challenges of the future – carbon dioxide will be needed alongside it.