Brown University shieldBrown University

CO₂: From Waste to Worth-Exploring the Market for CO₂-Based Commodities

January 26, 2015
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"Carbon capture is a critical technology to move us to a clean energy future…” Nobel Laureate and former US Secretary of Energy, Steven Chu

We earned a Platinum Rating for "CO₂: Waste to Worth"  by diverting 92% of the waste generated by the event from the traditional waste stream.We earned a Platinum Rating for "CO₂: Waste to Worth" by diverting 92% of the waste generated by the event from the traditional waste stream.


According to the International Energy Agency, $36 trillion of global investment in clean energy will be required by 2050 to meet the internationally agreed-upon goal of limiting global temperature rise to less than two degrees Celsius. Under this 2050 scenario, Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Storage (CCUS) contributes one-sixth of total carbon dioxide

(CO₂) emission reductions, and 14% of the cumulative emissions reductions through 2050 against a business-as-usual scenario. While great strides have been made to capture and sequester CO₂ in such a way that it lends itself to re-use, the creation of robust markets has lagged. Now is the time to bring momentum into the CO₂ value-chains and capitalize on the ways we can transform CO₂ from Waste to Worth.

Keynote Speaker Richard Sandor Chairman and CEO of Environmental Financial ProductsKeynote Speaker Richard Sandor Chairman and CEO of Environmental Financial Products On January 15, 2015 at the Institute For Computational and Experimental Research in Mathematics, Brown University, the New England Clean Energy Council, the Slater Technology Fund, and Commerce RI convened some of the leading thinkers, innovators, and investors in clean energy to exchange ideas and learn about carbon capture and utilization technologies coming from the region's labs and academic research centers. The event focused on the opportunities and challenges of transforming an abundant industrial byproduct --CO₂ -- into value-added commodities and revenue streams. It brought together the innovators who are attacking the technical and business challenges of carbon conversion and productive re-use, the investors backing them, and the companies turning to them for solutions.

Climate change presents once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for investors in clean and renewable energy, energy efficiency, and de-carbonization. It can also yield substantial economic benefits, including creating new jobs and businesses, stimulating technological innovation, and providing a robust foundation for economic recovery and sustainable long-term economic growth. Inventors, scientists, and policy makers joined us to discuss and discover what it takes to capitalize on these opportunities.

Speaker Addresses:

Senator Whitehouse via Recorded Address  

Welcome Remarks - Vicki Colvin, Provost, Brown University 

The Carbon Economy: Entrepreneurs Changing the Carbon Equation
While the global community grapples with the daunting challenge of anthropogenic carbon dioxide and its deleterious effects on the climate, a small but growing vanguard of today's energy entrepreneurs and investors see the overabundance of CO₂ as a business opportunity.

These entrepreneurs are turning the tables by building businesses that rely on CO₂ to deliver value. They are developing the technologies, building the teams and assets, and scaling the businesses that will define the "climate opportunity."

In this panel, we talked with entrepreneurs on the frontlines of building bioreactor and non-emissive co-generation technologies, and with investors and entrepreneurs from the enhanced oil recovery industry. We explored what's being ventured, as well as the successes achieved and obstacles encountered along the way.


Thorne Sparkman, Managing Director, Slater Technology Fund (moderator)
Toby Ahrens, Chief Technology Officer, BioProcess Algae
Mark Bye, Partner, Morgan Stanley Private Equity
Paul Dunn, Enhance Energy Group
Greg Sweeney, Director, Praxair

Carbon Cycle 2.0: Understanding the Value Chain
Cutting-edge research aims to develop new catalytic processes that enable CO₂ to be a sustainable feedstock for large-scale commodity chemicals. Currently, feedstocks for the world's most widely used commodity chemicals are derived from non-sustainable carbon sources such as petroleum. The catalytic conversion of CO₂ into these feedstocks is a promising alternative because of the great abundance of CO₂. Previous studies have demonstrated that this greenhouse gas can serve as a readily available and inexpensive source of carbon in the synthesis of more complex organic molecules, but fundamental advances are needed to increase the range of compounds that can be synthesized from CO₂.

If this research is successful, will it allow for the creation of new companies filling important roles in an ever-evolving value chain? What types of discoveries are necessary? What will this new value chain look like? What type of new companies will emerge?


Tayhas Palmore, Professor of Engineering, Brown University (moderator)
Doug Cameron, Co-President & Director, First Green Partners
Emily Cole, Co-founder/CSO, Liquid Light
Dimitris Collias, Principal Engineer, Procter & Gamble
Ah-Hyung (Alissa) Park, Professor of Applied Climate Science, Columbia University & Interim Director, Lenfest Center for Sustainable Energy 

Organizing Committee:

Brown University: Tristan Barako, Brian Demers, Leonard Katzman
Commerce Rhode Island Renewable Energy Fund: Hannah Morini
New England Clean Energy Council: Kimberly Herb, Charity Pennock
Slater Technology Fund: Nancy Esau, Alexis Miles, Thorne Sparkman
SVM Public Relations & Marketing: Laura Nelson