Life cycle assessments (LCAs) of early-stage technologies can provide valuable insights about key drivers of emissions and aid in prioritizing research into further emissions-reduction opportunities. Despite this potential value, further development of LCA methods is required to handle the increased uncertainty, data gaps, and confidentially of early-stage data. This study presents a discussion of the life cycle carbon footprinting of technologies competing in the final round of the NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE competition-a US$20 million competition for teams to demonstrate the conversion of CO2 into valuable products at the scale of a small industrial pilot using consistent deployment conditions, boundaries, and methodological assumptions. This competition allowed the exploration of how LCA can be used and further improved when assessing disparate and early-stage technologies. Carbon intensity estimates are presented for two conversion pathways: (i) CO2 mineralization and (ii) catalytic conversion (including thermochemical, electrochemical, photocatalytic and hybrid process) of CO2, aggregated across teams to highlight the range of emissions intensities demonstrated at the pilot for individual life cycle stages. A future scenario is also presented, demonstrating the incremental technology and deployment conditions that would enable a team to become carbon-avoiding relative to an incumbent process (i.e. reducing emissions relative to a reference pathway producing a comparable product). By considering the assessment process across a diverse set of teams, conversion pathways and products, the study presents generalized insights about opportunities and challenges facing carbon capture and-utilization technologies in their next phases of deployment from a life cycle perspective.
- carbon capture and utilization
- carbon footprinting
- life cycle assessment