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News Trends: Decarbonization Pledges a Boon for CO₂ Capture and Utilization Technologies

Yuan-Sheng Yu, Director, Research
April 7, 2021

A little over a year ago, the World Health Organization (WHO) officially declared a global pandemic. At the time, there was a great deal of uncertainty about how COVID-19 would impact the energy industry. More than 12 months later, we witnessed a 20% drop in oil demand, a 5% reduction in electricity consumption, and the largest year-over-year reduction in global CO2 emissions. However, through it all, the energy transition continued to move forward at an accelerated rate.

Using our news commentary feature, we have been tracking key developments in the energy industry over the first year of the global pandemic, covering nearly 650 individual developments across more than 10 of our major topic areas. These innovation-related events range from partnerships and investments to recent R&D and policies. Each news commentary includes information about the companies involved and our take on the development.

The news trends analysis is one of the main factors shaping the Lux Energy Team's outlook for 2021 and beyond. Many of the transformational developments that occurred directly influenced the Energy Program's four key themes – Evolution of Electricity Networks, Decarbonization of Industry, The Business of the Energy Transition, Future Energy for Mobility – and shaped our 2021 predictions. In the below figure, we analyze the activity over the past 12 months within one of our main topics, CO2 emissions and abatement.

News Trends: Decarbonization pledges a boon for CO₂ capture and utilization technologies

As we enter the second year of the global pandemic, we take a look back at the "Truly Disruptive" and "Very Important" developments over the past 12 months. In addition, we have selected the most read and discussed innovation-related events.

Building materials:


The Chemical and Materials Company of 2040

CO2 capture:

  • Svante raises $72 million Series D. The Series D was led by Temasek Holdings and also included investors like the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative and Chevron. Svante will use the funds to finance its next three years of operations, which includes launching its first commercial-scale unit at a cement plant in the U.S.

  • Elon Musk partners with XPRIZE for $100 million CO2 capture competition. Elon Musk formalized his original announcement for the "best carbon capture technology" by partnering with XPRIZE Foundation. XPRIZE is best known for its NRG COSIA competition that brought CO2 utilization to the global limelight.

  • ExxonMobil launches ExxonMobil Low Carbon Solutions. The Low Carbon Solutions business will invest $3 billion for more than 20 carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) projects globally. The focus will be on pre-combustion CO2 capture and improving storage capabilities.

  • Climeworks to launch new direct air capture facility with Audi. Climeworks will launch a 4,000 MT per year commercial direct air capture (DAC) facility in Iceland in collaboration with Audi. The CO2 captured will be stored underground through a natural mineralization process.

  • NRG Energy shuts down Petra Nova carbon capture project. The world's largest commercial-scale post-combustion CO2 capture facility was indefinitely shut down as the low oil prices at the time made the flagship project uneconomical for enhanced oil recovery (EOR).


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  • Air Protein raises $32 million Series A. The Series A was led by ADM Ventures, Barclays, and GV (previously Google Ventures). Air Protein will use the funds to accelerate the development and commercialization of its CO2-based protein for meat substitutes as well as to launch an innovation R&D lab and expand its team.

  • Solar Foods raises $18 million Series A. Solar Foods brought its total funding to $22 million, with Finnish food company Fazer Group leading the round. The funding will be used to construct a commercial production facility, aimed to be operational by the end of 2022.

  • REACT-FIRST consortium receives funding to scale the CO2-to-protein value chain. The U.K. government awarded $2.5 million to a project to explore CO2-to-protein tech for poultry and aquaculture feeds. REACT-FIRST is led by Deep Branch Biotechnology and includes a consortium of industry players for CO2 capture, nutrition optimization, feed production and trials, and end-user engagement.


The momentum around CO2 capture and utilization will undoubtedly continue, as the carbon neutrality goals of the world's major economies will result in a significant uptick in announcements in 2021. As the market has the potential to reach $550 billion by 2040, companies are ramping up efforts in identifying the winning technologies and target markets for CO2 utilization in the new carbon economy. CO2 capture, building materials, and synthetic fuels remain the most prominent technologies, highlighted by major project announcements in the coming decade, key partnerships being formed, and growing investments. Notably, chemicals and polymers are limited by costs and lack strong regulatory support, concentrating much of the activity in early R&D. While single-cell proteins are still in the nascent stages of development, they have the potential to produce large volumes with fewer facilities in less time and are expected to rapidly scale in 2030 and beyond.

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