Transforming Carbon Dioxide Into an Industrial Resource

January 20, 2021

Made in Louisiana: Ensuring a Future Supply of Things We Rely On Every Day

LSU researchers are working on alternatives to petroleum and natural gas as sources of carbon to manufacture key chemicals—in Louisiana—for products we rely on every day, such as soap and shampoo, PVC pipes, phones, polyester fabrics, and medical devices.

“If you wash your clothes with detergent in Washington, that probably started as natural gas somewhere in Louisiana,” said LSU chemical engineer John Flake. “It was probably converted to ethylene in Lake Charles and then to a long-chain alcohol there, maybe next door, and then it probably went to Procter & Gamble in Pineville, across the Red River from Alexandria.”

Flake is now working on turning industrial waste into a key resource for manufacturing by capturing and using carbon dioxide from factories and refineries (before it becomes emission)—or straight from the atmosphere—as a raw material to substitute for petroleum and natural gas. This will ensure the future resilience and sustainability of a vital Louisiana industry as we rely less on fossil fuels (a limited resource) and help fight climate change.

See more above in the enhanced oil recovery story on how captured CO2 also can be used to harvest more oil from depleted and abandoned reservoirs. And what we cannot put to good use, we can safely store underground by re-employing Louisiana’s existing petroleum engineering workforce and the deep, geological knowledge that comes from a long history in oil and gas exploration.

Products made from petroleum and natural gas

Many of the products we use every day are made from ethylene, which in turn is made from petrochemicals—oil and natural gas. By using carbon dioxide as a feedstock instead of fossil fuels to make ethylene, LSU chemical engineers are working to make Louisiana’s chemical manufacturing industry more sustainable.

– Elsa Hahne / LSU

“Louisiana is uniquely blessed to have a highly trained, highly skilled workforce that is well suited for building additional pipelines and operating wells for carbon capture and sequestration. The state also has highly concentrated industrial corridors that contain pure carbon sources located relatively close to existing CO2 pipeline infrastructure, and ideal geology for storage. LMOGA firmly believes that Louisiana can become a global leader in climate solutions, which LSU is helping to develop, and we welcome the opportunity to prove to the world that energy production and environmental stewardship go hand in hand as investment in this space ramps up.”

- Nathan McBride, regulatory affairs manager, Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association (LMOGA)