Turning carbon from a waste into a resource

By March 29th, 2021

Using carbon dioxide for commercial applications that support emissions reductions and industry growth will be the focus of CSIRO’s upcoming Commoditisation of CO2 Roadmap.
aeroplane wing with clouds

Carbon capture and utilisation can help minimise greenhouse gas emissions by capitalising on the CO2 emitted from existing processes, particularly for hard to abate industries such as aviation.

Carbon in our everyday lives

CO2 is used for everyday applications such as keeping food cool and safe during transportation, enhancing plant growth in greenhouses and in the production of fertilisers. However, the source of the CO2 for these applications varies and can range from burning fossil fuels to existing industrial CO2

Carbon capture and utilisation (CCU) utilises CO2 to shift it from a risk or a waste product to an opportunity that adds value to existing processes or creates new applications and products.

The Commoditisation of CO2 Roadmap currently being developed by CSIRO will profile the potential of CCU and highlight industry opportunities to adopt CCU as part of a suite of low emissions technology solutions.

The roadmap is being supported by the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources, Victorian Government, Austrade and a range of private and industry organisations.

Vivek Srinivasan, Associate Director from CSIRO Futures, says CO2 generated from industrial processes often goes to waste and contributes to our carbon emissions. However, it can be used or locked away in products, such as concrete.

“CCU can help minimise greenhouse gas emissions ending up in the atmosphere by capitalising on the CO2 emitted from existing processes, such as making steel and aluminium, or using CO2 directly from the air,” says Mr Srinivasan.

“We can combine this emerging technology with other low emission solutions, such as hydrogen, to create a low carbon or carbon neutral synthetic fuel. We can also use and store carbon by ‘locking’ it away permanently in products, such as in concrete and other building materials.”

“Applying CCU to our resources and manufacturing sectors is a win-win – it creates commercial opportunities for industry and can play a role in reducing carbon emissions.”

The role of CCU in Australia

The Commoditisation of CO2 Roadmap will identify the commercial opportunities most applicable for Australian industries. This will factor in Australia’s existing and future CO2 value chain, as well as its comparative advantages and decarbonisation challenges.

Aerial view of Australia

Carbon capture and utilisation is one tool in a suite of low emission technologies to help decarbonise Australia’s economy.

“CCU could become an increasingly important and economical part of Australia’s low emission solutions to deliver industrial products,” says Mr Srinivasan.

“To shortlist CCU opportunities for Australia, the roadmap will identify the most cost-effective ways of capturing, transporting and using CO2 – either directly, or through a conversion pathway.”

“Techno-economic analysis will help assess CCU market opportunities and understand current and future costs.”

The research will also explore current challenges to help provide a blueprint for how to scale the CCU industry in Australia.

“As CCU is an emerging and innovative technology area, the roadmap will consider business models and regulatory levers and R&D required for industry scale-up,” explains Mr Srinivasan.

“This includes environmental and social considerations for industry application and the importance of further research in carbon accounting and life-cycle assessments.”

The importance of carbon capture and utilisation

The scale of adapting to climate change and the decarbonisation challenge requires us to consider every method and tool available to us.

“CCU provides a way to make economical use of captured CO2, or to reduce carbon emissions in industries where emissions reduction is challenging with renewable technologies alone,” says Mr Srinivasan.

“Our initial analysis shows CCU could help decarbonisation efforts for hard-to-abate industries, such as the plastics and chemicals industries.”

“It is important that CCU technologies are considered as complementary, rather than competitive, with investment in renewables and hydrogen technologies.”

“Applying CCU could offer Australian industries new low carbon opportunities. It could provide a pathway to lower the carbon content in our exported resources and create opportunities to manufacture low carbon products.”

buildings under construction

Carbon dioxide can be used or locked away in products, such as concrete. Photo by C Dustin/Unsplash

Supporting a low carbon future

In its First Low Emissions Technology Statement 2020 the Australian Government identified CCU as an emerging technology that will play an important role in Australia’s transition to a lower emissions future.

The recently announced $50 million Carbon Capture, Use and Storage Development Fund will help to lower the cost of technology adoption and encourage industry investment in deploying CCU technology.

Daniel Quinn, General Manager at the Resources Division from the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources, said the Commoditisation of CO2 Roadmap will help Australia utilise CO2 to support industry growth and create economically viable products.

“We are looking at CCU as one of many tools to decarbonise our economy. It’s an emerging technology identified in the Low Emissions Technology Statement with an important role to play in Australia’s transition to lower emissions.

“This includes the reuse of waste which will encourage sustainable practices in the mining and metals processing industry.

“The adoption of CCU will provide another pathway to reducing our emissions while strengthening our economy.”


CSIRO is working together with government and industry on the development of the roadmap including the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources, Woodside, Santos, APA Group, Wesfarmers Chemicals, Energy & Fertilisers, Mineral Carbonation International, the Victorian Government, KBR, Advisian, Austrade and CO2 Value Australia.

The roadmap will be launched in July 2021.











  1. Brilliant idea. Curios though about how you ‘lock it it’ to concrete.

    1. Thanks for your question.

      When the CO2 gas is exposed to chemicals in the cement mixture, it reacts with them to form a new solid material (known as a carbonate). This means the CO2 is converted into a new solid form, and is bound up in the concrete structure. This process happens naturally with concrete used today, when CO2 from the air reacts with concrete.

      However, the process can be sped up by injecting more CO2 into the cement mixture during the initial hardening stage. This is known as ‘concrete curing with CO2’.

      Hope this information helps.

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