Creating the World’s Largest Carbon Capture and Utilization Plant
Carbon capture and utilization is a key component of the decarbonisation puzzle and SABIC is leading the way
Addressing climate change and reducing the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere is one of the greatest challenges the international community faces. At SABIC, we have responded by taking one step further. Rather than just reducing CO2 emissions, we understand how this compound can be transformed to benefit the world, driving value where others only see a liability.
We have built a mega carbon capture and utilization (CCU) plant that opened in 2015 at United, a SABIC affiliate, and is the largest facility of its kind in the world. It uses proprietary technology to capture 500,000 metric tons (MT) of CO2 per year from the production of ethylene glycol that would otherwise be emitted into the atmosphere, converting it into feedstock for industrial processes. To put things in perspective, over 11 million trees would need to be planted to capture the equivalent amount.
What is the difference between CCS and CCU?
Carbon capture and storage (CCS) captures CO2 from an industrial or power-sector source and traps it in a geological formation, while the process of carbon capture and utilization (CCU) purifies the captured gas for reuse into commercially viable products such as chemicals, fertilizers and fuels. CCU includes using waste carbon dioxide as a chemical feedstock for the production of other chemicals.
Given some of the challenges that CCS has come up against, including uncertainty over potential storage capacity and public resistance, SABIC believes that all alternative and complementary technologies, including CCU, must be considered if we are to meet ambitious climate change targets in the most sustainable manner.
SABIC’s journey to creating the largest carbon capture and utilization plant
Our journey to create the world’s largest CCU plant began with identifying ways we could more efficiently use resources and reduce the amount of emissions into the atmosphere. As SABIC, we have set ourselves an ambitious target to reduce our GHG intensity by 25% and material loss intensity by 50% by 2025 - with 2010 as the baseline. CO2 formed as an inevitable by-product of the ethylene glycol process counts for both KPIs. Rather than viewing carbon emissions as purely a challenge, we identified an opportunity to create greater value.
We understood we were uniquely positioned to share by-products that would otherwise be wasted, given the close proximity that our Saudi manufacturing facilities share with each other. Turning this vision into action, we developed a purification process unit to remove impurities from the CO2 vent stream.
Once the CO2 is purified, it is then channelled through a network to other SABIC affiliates, where it is used to produce:
- Urea - a key agri-nutrient that enables more plentiful harvests
- Methanol – a building block for many other chemicals that we use daily
- Liquefied CO2 – used widely in the food and drink industry
Our network enables SABIC to maximize resource efficiency by enabling integration between multiple sites.
Emissions to value
SABIC was founded in 1976, with the clear vision of making use of waste gases that were being flared as a by-product of oil production. Today, we continue to lead the way in developing sustainable solutions, establishing ourselves as a global leader in technologies that capture and create value from carbon dioxide that would otherwise be wasted.
This ambitious project exemplifies the Saudi Government’s drive to turn “Emissions to Value” (E2V) by using the nation’s vast hydrocarbon resources to develop a “carbon circular economy.” This impressive technological innovation was recognized by the G20 – during the Energy and Ministerial meeting in June 2019 in Osaka, Japan – as a basis for reducing greenhouse gas emissions as a part of the effort to mitigate climate change. This recognition sent a clear message that the international community supports action to move ahead with exploring E2V opportunities.