Handling CO2

How CO2 can be reused or stored

In the case of some raw materials, it is impossible to avoid CO2 being emitted in the course of the production process. Nevertheless, it is possible to stop this CO2 being released into the atmosphere. This requires new infrastructures: carbon dioxide needs to be captured, transported and then reused or set aside in storage facilities.


In the case of petrochemical processes and the production of syngas, carbon capture has been considered state-of-the-art for some time now. But carbon capture is also being further developed in many other industrial processes and the first facilities are being tested or are already in use. 

Balancing carbon

On the one hand, CO2 can accrue selectively in higher concentrations in so-called point sources such as cement works. On the other hand, CO2 may also occur diffusely, i.e. it disperses directly into the air – as in the case of agriculture or air travel. If the formation of carbon dioxide cannot be prevented, it has to be compensated, i.e. it must be captured in another place. This is the only way to meet the goal of climate neutrality. There are several ways to do this:

  • Reforestation: when new woodlands are planted they bind CO2.
  • BECCS (Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage): CO2 is captured in bioenergy applications and then stored by geological sequestration.
  • DAC (Direct Air Capture technology): This method captures carbon directly from the ambient air. The extension of this, DACCS (Direct Air Carbon Capture and Storage), further refers to the subsequent storage of the carbon that is captured. This process is, however, extremely energy-intensive. It is therefore more advantageous to avoid CO2 or to separate it in a more energy-efficient way in areas where it occurs in higher concentrations.


Capturing CO2 at point source only makes sense if the CO2 can be subsequently transported from the source to a carbon sink. This can be done by pipeline or ship, amongst other methods, or by rail or truck in the case of smaller quantities. Pipelines are predominantly the logical choice for industrial point sources, such as cement and lime works, where large quantities of CO2 constantly arise. These pipelines can be used to transport CO2 to storage facilities (Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS)) or to facilities that make further use of the carbon (Carbon Capture and Utilisation (CCU)).


Avoiding fossil-based carbon in industrial production

CO2 is already used for various applications in industry. However, it generally only remains bound in this respect for a short period of time, which is not particularly beneficial to the climate. Utilising CO2 can only be climate-neutral if fossil-based carbon is avoided or if the CO2 stays permanently bound, for example in concrete. Utilising CO2 has a further benefit however: CO2 can replace fossil-based carbon carriers such as crude oil and natural gas in the chemical industry. Furthermore, this can close the carbon cycle in line with the circular economy concept.


The solution: closing the carbon cycle and using climate-neutral fuels

The solution: the carbon must remain within the closed loop of the carbon economy and not be allowed to leave it. This is the only way to prevent the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere from rising. This works for chemical products like medicines and plastics, for instance. Moreover, to achieve climate neutrality, it is essential that CO2 is replaced by or transformed into climate-neutral fuels and reactants such as hydrogen or renewable energy. The industrial sector is already transforming the use of CO2 in its initial projects (see the examples of best practice).

Storage options

Storage as an alternative to continued use

In contrast to reusing CO2 (Carbon Capture and Utilisation (CCU)), in the case of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS), carbon leaves the cycle and is stored over the long-term. Several projects have been created at an international level. Their goal is to provide the service of long-term geological carbon storage.


CO2 from agriculture and air travel can also be stored

It is possible to prevent CO2 emissions originating from unavoidable carbon sources from entering the atmosphere by means of storage. Diffuse CO2 emissions from agriculture and air travel can either be captured in bioenergy applications (Bioenergy Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS)) or taken directly from the ambient air (Direct Air Carbon Capture and Storage DACCS) and can thus be mitigated.


Carbon sinks in the North Sea are particularly practical for NRW

The largest potential for storing NRW’s CO2 emissions is reckoned to be in the North Sea, under the upper geological layers of the seabed. CO2 can be stored there over the long-term in deep-set saline rock layers, in sandstone or in the depleted reservoirs left over from crude oil and natural gas. Initially, only disused natural gas fields at a depth of more than 2.5 kilometres below the seabed could potentially be used as storage facilities for CO2. These storage facilities are particularly interesting since the North Sea is so close for Germany and especially for NRW. There are also potential areas for storing CO2 off the coasts of the Netherlands, Norway and the UK. Capacity is currently estimated at 61 to 73 gigatonnes of CO2.

In a climate-neutral industry, unavoidable CO2 must be captured and transported. The draft shows the necessary CO2 pipeline infrastructure in NRW, connecting the major CO2 sources with possible sinks. (nach SCI4climate.NRW 2021)

You will find further information on these pages

Want to go back to the overview of CO2 management? Then click here.

Want to know more about defossilisation? Then click here.

Your contact

Portrait der Projektmanagerin Industrie und Produktion Dr. Iris Rieth in einem Raum mit industriellem Design.

Dr. Iris Rieth

Project Manager Industry and Production

Phone: +49 209 408 599-12

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Current publications

CO2 in a climate-neutral basic materials industry

The discussion paper of the Carbon Dioxide Management Working Group, developed together with 17 partners from industry and science, summarises impulses and concrete requirements for sustainable carbon management.

1.928 MB 22.12.2021 pdf

Discussion Paper on Unavoidable CO2 Generation

The discussion paper provides a contribution to the dialogue on the future role of the carbon dioxide economy in North Rhine-Westphalia. Work result of the WG Carbon Dioxide Economy.

1.182 MB 22.12.2021 pdf

Best Practice

NRW.Energy4Climate presents selected research and application projects from North Rhine-Westphalia that enable the transformation towards climate neutrality. Here you will get an overview of outstanding projects relating to the capture, use and storage of CO2, which players from a wide range of sectors are already implementing today.

Einblick in das Stahlwerk, wo Carbon2Chem die Emissionen in wertvolle Chemikalien umwandelt.

Industrie & Produktion


To reduce CO2 emissions in steel production, thyssenkrupp is working on the use of metallurgical gases as a raw material for chemicals in the "Carbon2Chem" research project.

Chemische Anlage mit vielen Schläuchen und Reaktionsgefässen im Labor

Industrie & Produktion

Cardyon by Covestro

Versuchsanlage in Halle

Industrie & Produktion


All Projects