SABIC to build Saudi carbon capture-and-use plant

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Sabic's headquarters in Saudi Arabia. (Photo for illustrative purposes only)

Sabic's headquarters in Saudi Arabia. (Photo for illustrative purposes only)

Saudi Basic Industries Corp (SABIC) has hired Germany's Linde Group to build the world's largest plant for capturing and using climate-warming carbon dioxide, the Saudi petrochemical giant has said.

The United Jubail Petrochemical Company (UNITED), an affiliate of SABIC, plans to capture around 1,500 tonnes a day of carbon dioxide from ethylene plants and purify it for use in SABIC-owned petrochemical plants in the industrial city of Jubail.

The carbon capture and utilisation (CCU) plant will prevent about 500,000 tonnes a year of the gas which is blamed for global warming from being released into the atmosphere and SABIC said it could also supply 200 tonnes a day of liquid CO2 to the food and drinks industry.

"It will add to SABIC's business portfolio of industrial gas products," said Yousef Al-Zamel, Sabic executive vice president for chemicals strategic business unit. "This is the first of many other similar projects to be executed next year."

Carbon dioxide has been pumped into oil fields for decades to boost production, but the result is more carbon being produced.

A global push to reduce the carbon dioxide build up in the atmosphere, largely as a result of rising industrial activity, has so far focused on carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects to trap the gas underground.

Despite more than a decade of research, investment and government funding, there are still no commercial scale carbon storage plants.

The high cost of catching gas emitted by factories and power plants and storing it safely underground has deterred commercial CCS projects.

Using the carbon to produce food and drinks or fertiliser makes CCU more economically attractive. But the market for the gas is far smaller than the amount being pumped out, so CCU projects alone cannot solve the problem.

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