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Net Zero by Narsi is a series of brief posts by Narasimhan Santhanam (Narsi), on decarbonization and climate solutions.
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CO2 to ethylene

Occidental & Cemvita Factory are joining hands to produce ethylene from CO2 using the microbial pathway, and the venture claims that the technology is competitive with ethylene produced from hydrocarbons. ( )

The idea I presume is to feed CO2 to these genetically modified critters and they will convert the CO2 – with the source of hydrogen being some source of sugar if it is bacteria or water if it is microalgae – and you get ethylene.

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The process was reportedly developed by taking a gene from a banana and genetically engineering it into Cemvita’s microorganism. If successful, the project will provide Occidental with another avenue to ethylene, which the company uses to make polyvinyl chloride (PVC).

Mind you, these are all early stage pilots, and I’m not sure if you will be seeing any large-scale factory for pathways such as these in the near future.

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Besides, bio-based ethylene is already commercialized by companies such as Braskem of Brazil who produces ethylene from sugarcane-based ethanol. That is CO2 conversion too as the biomass had captured CO2 during its growth. But sugarcane-based ethylene could pose food-vs-plastics dilemma, unless companies are able to take cellulosic agro-waste biomass and convert it into ethylene. Also, plant-based ethylene does not answer the question many industries will have in the near future – what the heck I do with the CO2 that I have captured from my exhaust?

Whatever the route, the end product should interest us enormously – ethylene. It is one of the most important chemicals, the starting point to polyethylene (polythene for us!), ethylene glycol, PVC and more. Given its huge production volume, ethylene production is the fourth largest CO2 emitting industrial activity, after steel, fertilizer and cement, emitting an estimated 250 million tons of CO2 per year, about 0.7% of total CO2 emissions.

Cemvita Inc. Tara Karimi | Moji Karimi


Robert Zeller | Vicki Hollub

Al Greenwood ICIS

Natural Gas Intelligence Carolyn Davis

Braskem Wesley Ambrosio | Amanda Zani | Walmir Soller | Roberto Lopes Pontes Simões

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About Narasimhan Santhanam (Narsi)

Narsi, a Director at EAI, Co-founded one of India's first climate tech consulting firm in 2008.

Since then, he has assisted over 250 Indian and International firms, across many climate tech domain Solar, Bio-energy, Green hydrogen, E-Mobility, Green Chemicals.

Narsi works closely with senior and top management corporates and helps then devise strategy and go-to-market plans to benefit from the fast growing Indian Climate tech market.


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